CBS official confident of success in wooing Letterman to night slot

January 12, 1993|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

LOS ANGELES -- CBS Entertainment President Jeff Sagansky said yesterday that he is sure his network will get David Letterman.

"He's our guy," Sagansky said at a press conference here. "We want him desperately. We've been pursuing him for five months. We're going to get him."

Although Sagansky has all the confidence in the world, it's still not official. NBC has until Friday to match the CBS offer, which includes an 11:30 p.m. time slot for Letterman and reportedly $14 million annually over two years.

For NBC to keep Letterman, the network will have to bounce Jay Leno out of the time slot he took over when Johnny Carson retired from the "Tonight" show in May. Leno has been campaigning furiously among NBC affiliates to keep his job.

"It's in NBC's court," Sagansky said. "I know as much as you know about what NBC is offering him today. But I'll bet they're offering him plenty. . . . I have not talked to him, but we're in touch with his people daily. . . . In five days we're all going to know. . . . We're going to get him."

For the first time, Sagansky addressed what may be a major roadblock to the Letterman deal: the fact that many CBS affiliates, such as WBAL (Channel 11) in Baltimore, are contracted to carry Arsenio Hall at 11:30 p.m.

"Our affiliates told us they want David Letterman, and if we get him, they'll do right by him," Sagansky said. He added that CBS had canvased its affiliates and he expects "100 percent" will carry Letterman, which is not good news for Hall.

In another matter, Sagansky said that he has been impressed by a letter-writing campaign to keep "Brooklyn Bridge" on the air, and that the series will return later this spring for seven more episodes.

Asked whether he will consider it for renewal for next year, Sagansky said, "Absolutely. I got 6,000 letters on that show. I haven't gotten 6,000 cards and letters on any other show. . . . That's a groundswell of support."

Sagansky also announced a number of new films and TV series for the top-rated network. Among them are reunion movies of "I Spy," starring Bill Cosby and Robert Culp, and "The Odd Couple," starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. Both will air next fall, he said.

Sagansky said the CBS line-up demonstrates that CBS makes films other than "ripped-from-the-headlines" docudramas, like the Amy Fisher movies that each of the three networks recently broadcast.

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