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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 10:42 GMT
'Tug-of-war' for Letterman
Letterman has star guests including Madonna
Letterman has star guests including Madonna
The battle between two US TV networks for the signature of talk show host David Letterman looks to have intensified.

CBS, which broadcasts his late night show, has reportedly offered him an annual salary of $31.5m (22m) plus performance bonuses.

ABC are hoping to poach the 54-year-old and have allegedly offered him $31m (21.7m) and his own studio in the network's Times Square complex in New York, according to Entertainment Weekly magazine.

Letterman is one of the most famous faces in the US and his irreverent humour and top showbiz guests have made him a mainstay on TV for 20 years.

Andrea Noceti was angry with Letterman's comments
Andrea Noceti was angry with Letterman's comments
He has been on CBS since 1993 and reportedly earns $30m (21m) a year.

ABC's approach for Letterman has provoked angry reaction from newsman Ted Koppel, whose Nightline programme would be moved to make way for the chat show.

Koppel's programme has been on air for 22 years and he said he was disappointed at quotes attributed to ABC executives saying his show is no longer relevant because of rolling news services

"There are excellent business reasons for Disney (ABC owners) to pursue the Letterman program," Koppel told The New York Times.

"But when Nightline is gone, and should the occasion arrive that our work might again seem relevant to the anonymous executive, it will not then be possible to reconstitute what is so easily destroyed."

Award-winning

ABC executives are said to be concerned that Nightline does not reach the young viewers favoured by advertisers.

David Letterman attracts the valuable youth market, although he has suffered in the ratings recently against NBC's rival talk show the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Letterman has won a host of Emmys for his work over the years.

Two years ago he had to undergo a quintuple heart bypass.

Letterman has always made a long-running joke of his health, starting years ago when he discovered he had high cholesterol.

Last year he hit the headlines when he angered Colombia's top beauty queen, Andrea Noceti, when he joked that her top talent in the then forthcoming Miss Universe competition would be to swallow heroin.

Letterman apologised and invited Ms Noceti to appear on the show.

See also:

07 Mar 02 | TV and Radio
The long arm of Letterman
17 May 01 | TV and Radio
Letterman appeases Miss Colombia
15 Jan 00 | Americas
Heart scare for Letterman
13 Jan 00 | Americas
Hillary Clinton does Letterman
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