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CBS, Trump driving GM for studio

Ayemcast getting new home

NEW YORK — After months of speculation, CBS appears ready to ink a deal with developer Donald Trump to transform part of Gotham’s General Motors building into a new studio for the Eye’s “CBS This Morning.”

The pact is not yet complete and unexpected last-minute obstacles thrown up by New York City government regulatory boards could derail the signing. But Trump told Daily Variety Monday he expects an agreement soon, adding, “We’re very close to finalizing the lease (with CBS).”

CBS has been talking to Trump about the 25,000-square-foot space at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street for months (Daily Variety, Jan. 19). If the deal closes, Eye execs will relaunch “This Morning” in the new studio next fall.

Sources said CBS could commit as much as $30 million toward the new ayem plan, though that amount may be spread over many years. The proposed lease for the space is said to extend for more than a decade.

A CBS spokesman declined comment.

Trump plaza

Even without a done deal, Trump has already started planning an “urban plaza” to be built in front of the space CBS is expected to occupy.

“It will have the capacity to hold a good number of people,” Trump said. “We’re taking a piece of Central Park and putting it in front of the building.”

The parklike area, to be completed within “three to four months,” according to Trump, will be designed by planner Tom Balsey, who created the grand “wall of water” for one of Trump’s other buildings. CBS is expected to use the outdoor plaza for interacting with viewers, in the same way NBC’s “Today” uses Rockefeller Plaza.

Signed lease or not, recent activity around the GM building suggests major changes in the works.

GM, which for years used the building to showcase its various auto models, has removed its cars from the display area, clearing the way for the space to be transformed into the new CBS ayem studio.

Cosmetic surgery

Cosmetics giant Estee Lauder, a major tenant of the building, has also agreed to give back some of its space, removing another potential stumbling block for CBS.

CBS News execs have discussed bringing in Eye staffer and former “Today” anchor Bryant Gumbel to host the new ayem project, though no final decisions have been made.

WCBS VP and station manager Steve Friedman, the former “Today” exec producer who masterminded that show’s 1993 return to a ground-level studio, has been consulting with CBS on the ayem project. It’s not certain what his role will be in the new program.

While “This Morning” has made some incremental Nielsen gains in recent years — indeed, it’s the only ayem show up over last season — the broadcast has consistently lagged behind “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America.”