For a dozen years or more, David Letterman coveted one job: the host of the Tonight Show slot at NBC. We all know who held that spot: Johnny Carson.
David cooled his heels, kept his time slot and stretched the boundaries of what network censors would allow with his Late Show. (Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler, anyone?)
Then, Johnny retired. And Jay Leno got the time slot, and a nice production deal working for NBC.
In 1993, Dave, in what seemed at the time as a tremendous fit of pique as well as a risky gambit, struck his own production deal with CBS. Dave was taking home a huge paycheck – but owned his own show.
In the years since, Dave’s proven that two variety shows can co-exist at that time slot. AND he’s brought Craig Ferguson into the fold.
This week, his independent streak paid off. Dave’s production company, WorldWide Pants, struck a deal with the striking Writer’s Guild of America. As a result, he will be back next week – with his full writing team.
The deal breaker? Letterman’s company will pay his writers the new residual payments for the rebroadcast of the show on the Internet – until CBS and the other networks arrive at a larger agreement with the union.
In the short term, Letterman will get an opportunity to out-perform Leno and his other competitors, and will have an opportunity to book Screen Actors Guild members.
In the long term, I hope this early move to settle the strike is a sign that WorldWide Pants understands that online and distributed content will be the key to profit and success – not the old-fashioned and short-term focus on weekly eyeball numbers?