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Harbert takes NBC to task for Letterman tack

ABC Entertainment prez Ted Harbert yesterday chastised NBC for its handling of the David Letterman negotiations.

Appearing on a National Assn. of Television Program Executives panel, Harbert said it was a “mistake on NBC’s part” to conduct the negotiations involving Letterman and “Tonight” show host Jay Leno in the press.

The only ones to benefit from the leaks and public sniping, according to Harbert, were Letterman’s agents at CAA.

If NBC knew from the beginning that it wasn’t going to move Leno, and that Letterman would settle for nothing less than 11:30, NBC created a “lose-lose” situation for everyone by prolonging the negotiations, said Harbert. (There were reports that some NBC exex broached giving Letterman the 11:30 time period in a last-ditch effort to keep him.)

Harbert also offered some advice to Letterman, saying he should not try to change to please a somewhat wider audience at 11:30 p.m. on CBS. “He is who he is,” said Harbert, who noted that if Letterman tries to change he will hurt himself.

On another matter, Harbert said after the panel session that he will make a decision this week on whether to provide a full-season order to “The Jackie Thomas Show.”

ABC only budgeted for an initial order of 14 episodes, but Harbert said he is trying to juggle the entertainment budget for more money to round it out to 24.

The program has been dropping off from its lead-in, “Roseanne,” but Harbert emphasized that other factors will go into the decision about whether to renew the show for a second season. He provided a vote of confidence to the series, saying he likes the direction in which it is heading.

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