Network extends latenight host's gig

CBS has confirmed months of speculation and reupped David Letterman, locking in the latenight host through 2010.

Deal announced Monday ensures the Eye will retain Letterman a year longer than NBC will keep his rival, Jay Leno, who will cede “The Tonight Show” chair to Conan O’Brien in 2009.

Letterman, 59, and Leno have been competing since 1993, when NBC chose Leno over Letterman to succeed Johnny Carson and Letterman jumped to CBS.

NBC announced the plan two years ago as part of O’Brien’s contract talks in a bid to keep the latenight host from jumping to another network.

Letterman previously negotiated a deal in 2002, when ABC made a play for him to host a show that would have replaced “Nightline.”

There was less drama this time around. Letterman, on vacation, said, “I’m thrilled to be continuing on at CBS. At my age, you really don’t want to have to learn a new commute.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed by CBS. In 2002, Letterman signed for a reported $31.5 million a year.

Leno has held the ratings lead over Letterman for a little over a decade. Since the beginning of the TV season in September, Leno has averaged 5.6 million viewers a night, Letterman 4.2 million.

ABC’s “Nightline” has averaged 3.6 million at 11:30 p.m., while Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” averages about 1 million viewers.

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