Comic will take over for retired Bob Barker

CBS will pay Drew Carey a high seven-figure annual salary to replace Bob Barker as host of “The Price Is Right.”

Eye announced the news late Monday after the comic spilled the beans during a taping of Monday’s edition of “Late Show With David Letterman,” where Carey was appearing to promote “Power of 10,” the new Eye quizzer he hosts. Revelation confirmed weeks of speculation that Carey had emerged as the finalist for the gig (Daily Variety, June 21). 

Carey’s turn on “Power of 10,” was what led CBS to consider Carey for the “Price” gig in the first place, and while the two shows tape on different coasts, network execs don’t anticipate a problem with Carey pulling double duty.

Eye execs wouldn’t comment on Carey’s deal, but people familiar with the situation said the former star of “The Drew Carey Show” will ink a multiyear pact worth high seven figures per annum.

Producers at “Power” also agreed to accommodate Carey’s lifestyle, such as scheduling shoots so that Carey could be in Los Angeles for L.A. Galaxy soccer games.

CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler confirmed that Carey was a late contender for the gig, but said the comic-thesp had all the qualities the net was looking for in a replacement.

“Bob Barker had set the bar very high, but when we distilled it down to the essential elements, likability was huge, as was finding someone who can relate to the contestants and someone who had fundamental respect for the game,” Tassler told Daily Variety.

Exec said Carey had all those skills, plus was “endearing and really great with improv.” Comic hosted ABC’s long-running “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

Tassler said she personally called Barker on Monday morning to let him know the deal with Carey was nearly done. “He couldn’t have been more gracious and was very pleased,” she said.

Eye plans to make very few changes to the “Price” format, with Tassler saying Carey is “looking to preserve and protect” the franchise.

Tassler said replacing Barker has been the toughest task of her Eye tenure. CBS supremo Leslie Moonves oversaw the development of “The Drew Carey Show” when he was at Warner Bros. TV, and no doubt had final say in the decision to hire Carey.

It’s the second time in recent years CBS has cast someone from “Drew Carey” for a key gig. Craig Ferguson, who played Carey’s boss on the laffer, is the host of the Eye’s “Late, Late Show.”

Carey begins production on “Power of Ten” this week in New York. Tassler said she doesn’t expect Carey to begin taping “Price” segs until early September, with his shows likely to bow by the middle of that month.

While “Ten” producers Michael Davies and Sony Pictures Television needed to sign off on Carey’s doing “Price,” Tassler said she doesn’t think Carey will have much trouble juggling both.

“Both shows are in the hands of capable producers,” she said. “Michael Davies knows how to run his show, and ‘Price’ is a well-oiled machine. They’ve got great flexibility with the schedule.”

Tassler hopes she ends up with such a high-class problem, since it would mean the heavily hyped “Power of 10″ turns into a hit. Skein bows early next month.

 “Price” tapes throughout the year, but goes on hiatus in summer and winter. “Power of 10,” which is shot in New York, will have priority over Carey’s schedule.

Carey’s announcement ends weeks of tryouts and meetings conducted by CBS and the owner of the show, FremantleMedia North America, in search of a personality who could carry the show defined by the 83-year-old Barker, who spent 35 years hosting “Price.”

 Judging from the long list of talent brought in to discuss the job, managing games like Plinko is harder than it looks.

 Among the personalities who made pitches for the job: George Hamilton, Mark Steines, Todd Newton and CBS “Early Show” weatherman Dave Price. Rosie O’Donnell also said she’d like the gig, but she never tried out.

Last week, Carey told reporters at the Television Critics Assn. press tour that final details on a deal were being hammered out. 

“It fit my protocol or my principles: fun, easy to do, not work,” Carey told crix last week. “And all I’m doing is giving away prizes. And it’s not even my money.”

 Carey’s agent called to say the deal to host the show was finalized during the taping of “Letterman” Monday afternoon.

 “Couldn’t say anything, but during your ‘Harry Potter’ bit — honestly it was like 15 minutes ago — they called me,” Carey told Letterman. “It’s a done deal.  I’m the new host of ‘The Price Is Right.’ “

Carey is repped by Gersh.

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