Jockeying for David Letterman -- From NBC to CBS, which network will offer the late night funnyman the best contract?

By Kate Meyers and Bruce Fretts
Updated December 11, 1992 at 05:00 AM EST

David Letterman’s $7-million-a-year NBC contract expires June 30, 1993, and the jockeying for TV’s hottest, hippest free agent began months ago. Which offer will Lonesome Dave and his Creative Artists Agency team, led by superagent Michael Ovitz, decide to take? Here’s how we size up his possible deals.

Option: NBC
Plus: Continuity. And his money could more than triple, if the network matches syndication offers.
Minus: Unless NBC dumps Jay Leno, Letterman is stuck with the 12:30 a.m. start he loathes.
Entertainment Value: Excellent. Dave’s best when he’s bitter, and he’s most bitter at NBC.

Option: CBS
Plus: He could be on at 11:30 p.m. — and work in the same building as his crush, Connie Chung.
Minus: 40 percent of CBS affiliates air syndicated shows like Cheers at 11:30, pushing Dave later.
Entertainment Value: Viewers would be spared ”Crimetime After Primetime.”

Option: ABC
Plus: Strong lead-in from Ted Koppel, a guy with an even worse hairdo than Dave’s.
Minus: ABC won’t move Nightline from 11:30, so Dave’s show would commence at midnight.
Entertainment Value: Even under sedation, Dave beats ABC’s last late-night loser: Rick ”Disco Duck” Dees.

Option: FOX
Plus: A possible 11 p.m. start could give Dave an even bigger, younger audience.
Minus: Less cachet than the big three.
Entertainment Value: Dave’s humor may be a tad subtle for the folks who aired the postnuke sitcom Woops!

Option: Syndication
Plus: King World reportedly offered $25 million a year; Viacom wants him to produce other series.
Minus: Again, less cachet. And less control over when individual stations would air his show.
Entertainment Value: Questionable. Could more money make Dave less funny?