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David Letterman announces retirement, CBS eyes opportunity

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Last week late night talker David Letterman announced that he will retire from his hosting duties on the Eye Network in 2015. The announcement comes a few weeks after his late night rival Jay Leno retired for the second time. Leno leap frogged ahead of Letterman in the early 90’s to succeed outgoing host of “The Tonight Show;” Johnny Carson. Because of that Letterman left the NBC network for CBS where the late night rivalry started.

David Letterman spent 11 years as the host of the NBC show that followed “The Tonight Show”. During that time the late night genre has changed dramatically. The audience for late night programming is getting younger as older viewers are either retiring to bed early or just not tuning in. The last week March “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” touted a victory in a key demographic beating the combined efforts of Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman in the same time slot. However according to, Letterman’s announcement drove more viewers to his program beating “The Tonight Show” in preliminary totals.

This is your grandfather’s late night anymore

With Letterman leaving in 2015 CBS has an opportunity to capitalize on the increase in younger viewers. Appointing a new host preferably under 40 who could identify with younger audiences would be a strategic move for the network. While CBS ponders on who will replace Letterman, officials in New York and Los Angeles are sending notes to Les Moonves, Chariman and CEO of CBS lobbying on behalf of their city. The mayor of Los Angeles wants CBS to move Letterman’s replacement to L.A.. The city of Angeles recently lost “The Tonight Show” which has been filmed in or around the city since 1972. Although when Letterman leaves, what wil become of the Ed Sullivan Theater? It’s a historic landmark, surely some kind of show needs to occupy that building.

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Johnny Carson
Johnny Carson Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Johnny Carson

The late Johnny Carson hosted "The Tonight Show" from 1962-1972 in New York City and 1972-1992 in Burbank, California. Letterman was thought to be his successor, however Jay Leno was tapped as the next host.

David Letterman
David Letterman Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images

David Letterman

After being passed over as host of "The Tonight Show," David Letterman packed up and headed to CBS where he became Jay Leno's rival in the Late Night Wars. Since 1993 David Letterman been siphoning late night viewers. CBS has yet to name a replacement when Letterman retires in 2015.

Jay Leno
Jay Leno Paul Drinkwater/NBC via Getty Images

Jay Leno

Jay Leno started out as the substitute host of "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" until he was appointed his successor. Leno hosted the show from 1992 until 2014, with a brief hiatus when he retired once before and was replaced by Conan O'Brien and after several months was brought back. Leno's most recent replacement is the current host of "The Tonight Show," Jimmy Fallon.

Jimmy Kimmel
Jimmy Kimmel Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Variety

Jimmy Kimmel

Jimmy Kimmel has been in the late night talk game since 2003 with the launch of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on ABC. For more than a decade Kimmel's show followed the news program "Nightline". In 2013 the show's time slot moved to 11:35 putting it in direct competition with "The Late Show with David Letterman" and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno".