When all is said and done, where David Letterman ends up next could come down to who’s got the better conglom.
CBS and ABC execs are awaiting Letterman’s return this weekend from vacation — and, presumably shortly thereafter, a decision on whether he’ll stay at the Eye or bolt to the Alphabet. As industry insiders continue to buzz about what may happen, there’s word that both camps have been stressing to Letterman’s reps just how they’ll use the promotional muscle of their respective corporate owners to hype “Late Show.”
For CBS, that means using the resources of Viacom to support Letterman — something CBS couldn’t push the last time Letterman signed, since the Eye wasn’t part of Viacom then. Viacom’s Dave-friendly assets include MTV, VH1, TNN, 185 radio stations, a zillion billboards and two broadcast networks.
Indeed, a top exec at one of Viacom’s many TV holdings ran into Letterman production topper Rob Burnett this week and apparently told Burnett he couldn’t wait to start using his network to support “Late Show.” CBS has indicated a willingness to put guarantees of such promo power in writing.
Of course, Disney-owned ABC has a few assets of its own that could be used to hype Letterman. Alphabet execs have told Letterman’s camp that ESPN would be available as a promo tool, as well as nets such as Lifetime, A&E and ABC Family. Net also has played up its sports franchises (“Monday Night Football,” the NBA, the NHL) and the Oscars among the top 10 reasons Letterman should bolt.
Meanwhile, the Letterman brouhaha is spilling over to Letterman’s current CBS show. ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer, who was skedded to be a guest on “Late Show” next week, has pulled out, citing the awkwardness of the situation.