David Letterman is staying put at CBS.
Despite long-gestating rumblings that the late-night veteran was readying for retirement, the network announced Friday that it has extended his Late Show contract through 2015. The news comes as rival NBC preps for a shake-up with ratings leader Jay Leno being replaced by Jimmy Fallon following the Winter Olympics.
“Les [Moonves] and I had a lengthy discussion, and we both agreed that I needed a little more time to fully run the show into the ground,” Letterman quipped in a statement, with CBS CEO Leslie Moonves adding: “There is only one Dave, and we are extremely proud that he continues to call CBS home.”
This summer, Moonves suggested that outside of Johnny Carson, Letterman is the “best” that ever was in late-night. He then used the Television Critics Association platform, much as he had the upfronts stage, to take a dig at NBC: “We like the stability,” he told reporters. “Despite what people think, we don’t like drama at 11:30.”
At 31 years, Letterman recently surpassed Carson as the longest-serving late-night talk show host in TV history. His Late Night With David Letterman bowed on NBC in February 1982, earning him a Peabody and five Emmys. Since his show’s move to CBS in 1993, the Late Show has garnered another nine Emmys and a top slot in the bookings hierarchy. His previous contract renewal came in spring 2012.
Though Letterman’s series has seen its ratings slide over the years because of increased competition from broadcast and cable, it was up 5 percent, year-over-year, during the first week of the fall season. The show, which Letterman famously owns through his Worldwide Pants production company, averages 3.14 million viewers weekly.