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David Letterman Extends CBS Deal Through 2015

Letterman celebrated 20th anniversary at CBS in August

CBS has extended its deal with David Letterman through 2015 to host “Late Show with David Letterman,” ensuring the veteran talk-show host will continue to hold forth while a new generation of late-night hosts make their way on NBC and ABC.

Letterman’s contract was slated to expire at the end of 2014.

“There is only one Dave, and we are extremely proud that he continues to call CBS ‘home,’” said CBS Corp. prexy/CEO Leslie Moonves, as the deal between the network, Letterman and Worldwide Pants was announced.

The move again delays chatter about when Letterman might retire or who CBS might have in mind to succeed him. The venerable host  started “Late Night” on NBC in 1982 in the post-“Tonight” slot , then  left the Peacock after Jay Leno was named to succeed Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” at 11:30 p.m. The move split the audience that had long considered “Tonight” an institution and set in motion a gradual and irrevocable splintering of the wee-hours TV audience as cable rivals like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Chelsea Handler also took to the airwaves.

Even so, Letterman has the clout of an elder statesman in the time slot. He is the longest-running late night talk show host in television history at 31 years and counting, serving the past 20 at CBS. “Late Show” increased its audience 5% year-to-year during the opening week of the 2013-14 season.

Letterman will now serve as a foil to both NBC and ABC. as both back younger talent in the time slot.  ABC surprised many in the business when it bumped “Nightline” for an earlier version of “Jimmy Kimmel LIve” at the start of 2013.  NBC, meanwhile, has announced that  Jay Leno will step down from “Tonight” in early February, while current “Late Night” host Jimmy Fallon will take that show’s reins following NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage that month.

Quipped Letterman: “Les and I had a lengthy discussion, and we both agreed that I needed a little more time to fully run the show into the ground.”

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