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Jay vs. Dave: Unseemly, but Good for Business?

Execs at CBS and NBC are in an uncomfortable position. The volleys from David Letterman at Jay Leno keep getting nastier, and Leno has felt obliged to jab back.

And that might actually be good for business.

The media loves a feud. This one has simmered for years, but now there’s little hiding Letterman’s long-suffering disdain for and hostility toward Leno. Eighteen years have passed, but the wounds of not getting “The Tonight Show” appear to be as fresh as ever.

It’s not like anyone at CBS can rein Letterman in. But there has to be a point where the tit-for-tat yields diminishing returns and tars both hosts. Watching two middle-aged guys squabble like high-school kids is entertaining, perhaps, but at the very least unseemly.

For now, though, this is all promotional. NBC has been wondering how to promote Leno’s return. The Jay-Dave “feud” is one sure-fire way to continue stoking the media’s interest.

At this point, the only clear beneficiary in the long term is probably the New York Times’ Bill Carter. It will all be wonderful grist for his inevitable sequel to “The Late Shift.” Still, given the importance of JC in both their lives, you have to wonder: What would Johnny do?

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