David Letterman, host of CBS's Late Show, and Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson are "very close" to contract extensions with CBS Corp, the most-watched US TV network.
The agreements will run "deep into 2012", Nina Tassler, President of CBS Entertainment, told reporters at a television critics conference yesterday in Pasadena, California.
CBS is solidifying its schedule as rival NBC considers returning comedian Jay Leno to 11.35pm for a half-hour show to bolster sagging ratings in prime time and late night. Tassler said New York-based CBS did not waver in its support of Letterman during the host's recent revelation of affairs with female staff members.
"We're very close to a deal," Tassler said. Letterman "is handling a deeply personal issue with grace".
The Jay Leno Show began in September weeknights at 10pm on NBC, replacing more expensive scripted programmes. The talk show's ratings were low and allowed CBS to increase its share of the advertising during the hour, Tassler said.
"At the end of the day, it was an experiment that obviously did not work," Tassler said of NBC's decision to air Leno in primetime. "ABC, CBS and Fox, we've all fared, I think, very well during this experimental phase for NBC."
Conan O'Brien, host of NBC's Tonight Show, is considering whether to allow the network to move his programme to make room for Leno or leave, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Fox, owned by New York-based News Corp, and several other TV networks have expressed interest in O'Brien, said the person, who declined to be identified because the deliberations are private.
CBS plans to shoot as many pilots as it did in previous years, Tassler said, without providing a number. She said the network is watching very closely how many new programmes NBC will produce if Leno returns to late night. The move would require NBC to fill five hours a week with new shows.
Separately, Tassler said that Charlie Sheen, star of CBS's Two and a Half Men, returned to work January 8, taping his first episode of the show since the actor's December 25 arrest in Aspen, Colorado for alleged domestic violence.
"The show is proceeding along its regular project schedule," Tassler said. "There's been no impact on the network right now."
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