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Kinnear near NBC deal

Greg Kinnear, host of E! Entertainment Television’s “Talk Soup,” is reportedly near signing with NBC to take over as host of “Later,” the latenight talkshow currently fronted by Bob Costas.

Kinnear is one of several candidates who’ve been mentioned for the job, after his name was floated as a possible latenight host for Fox Broadcasting Co. following the demise of “The Chevy Chase Show.”

NBC’s search for a new “Later” host coincides with CBS’ courtship of Costas to take over the 12:30 a.m. slot coming out of “Late Show With David Letterman”– Letterman having previously been Costas’ lead-in at NBC.

NBC declined comment, and neither Kinnear nor his representative at the William Morris Agency could be reached. “Later” is produced by NBC Prods. and has aired on the network since August 1988. It’s unclear whether Kinnear would continue his affiliation with E!, but based on the relatively small subscriber base of the cable net, that’s considered a possibility.

Kinnear’s credits also include hosting the short-lived Fox primetime series “Best of the Worst.” Any new “Later” host faces one setback in that the show’s lead-in has dropped about 5 share points since Conan O’Brien took over from Letterman in mid-September.

Ironically, Costas — who until this season was also the principal in-studio host for NBC Sports — has lamented his inability to cover baseball during the last four years, when CBS had exclusive rights to the games. Those rights will be split by NBC and ABC starting next year, however, under a six-year deal with Major League Baseball.

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