Senior executives in Letterman’s production company confirmed reports earlier today.
“Dave has announced that he’s staying with CBS. He announced it on the show tonight,” said Rob Burnett, the top executive said Monday.
Although the financial details of the plan were not released, news organizations reported last week that Letterman would receive some $31.5 million a year from CBS.
Last month, reports surfaced that ABC was talking with Letterman’s company about leaving CBS and taking the 11:30 pm time slot on the Disney-owned network.
The move angered Ted Koppel, the host of the critically acclaimed “Nightline” news program that currently held the 11:30 slot on ABC.
“This is a legendary program headed by one of the biggest figures in recent television news history, Ted Koppel,” New York Times television columnist Bill Carter said on the NewsHour recently. “So they had to calculate the risk of that versus the possibility of the upside of getting David Letterman.”
ABC, in a statement released late Monday, said it felt compelled to pursue Letterman.
“In today’s competitive environment, it is incumbent upon us to explore all programming options, and ‘The Late Show with David Letterman’ was an opportunity that ABC felt compelled to pursue.” Alex Wallau, president of ABC said in the statement.
For now, ABC plans to continue to run Nightline at 11:30 and said it still valued the news program.
“From the outset, we’ve always said that Ted Koppel and ‘Nightline’ would have a significant presence at ABC News,” Wallau said. “‘Nightline’ will remain in its time period, where it will continue to provide its distinctive brand of journalism for the network.”
Despite the ABC decision to keep ‘Nightline’ at its current time, producers of the show said damage had been done.
“We are sure that Disney, in its efforts to sign Mr. Letterman, did not intend to inflict any damage on ABC News in general or Nightline in particular; but intentionally or not, collateral damage has been done,” the show’s three top executives said in a statement Tuesday. “Our hope is that Disney will send a clear and unmistakable signal to them, to us, to the advertising community and to all of our loyal viewers interested in the robust future of network television news that Nightline can count on serious corporate backing.”
Earlier last week Koppel had angrily defended his program in a New York Times op-ed piece, saying his type of news program was even more pertinent during the U.S. war on terrorism.
“The regular and thoughtful analysis of national and foreign policy is more essential than ever — it is, at best, inappropriate and, at worst, malicious to describe what my colleagues and I are doing as lacking relevance,” Koppel wrote.
Before he officially announced his decision to stay at CBS, Letterman tried to put some perspective on the last two weeks of rumors and reports.
“I recognize that what I am going to talk about is ridiculous when you consider what happened on this day six months ago when New York and Washington DC were attacked,” he said. “Compared to that this is all trivial, pointless and downright silly.”