“The Late Show with David Letterman” could be returning to the air with new shows and WGA writers as soon as early January. The union told its members over the weekend that it is ready to negotiate with individual production companies, rather than the AMPTP, where talks have broken down. The change of stance is to be publicly announced today by the union and the first company expected to ink its own deal is Letterman’s Worldwide Pants, which produces not only his show for CBS, but also “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” which follows immediately afterward on the Eye net.
"Because we are an independent production company, we are able to pursue an interim agreement with the guild without involving CBS in that pursuit," said a statement from Worldwide Pants CEO Rob Burnett.
If Letterman cuts his own deal with the union – likely to include “most-favored” status to incorporate whatever terms eventually come out of the WGA contract negotiations with AMPTP, his return to the air will put pressure on other late night talk hosts to cross picket lines and return to work without their writing staffs. There had already been rumors that Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien were likely to go back on the air at NBC in January, regardless of whether the strike is settled. TVBR’s story below spells out analysis from Carat on how dramatically ratings for the late night shows have fallen since they began airing only reruns.
AMPTP has played down the union’s move to bargain with individual production companies. The alliance said it still speaks for the studios, individually as well as in a group. While Worldwide Pants and some other small production companies may seek to cut individual deals with WGA and get back to work, there has been no indication that any of the major players – GE/NBC, Walt Disney/ABC, CBS, News Corporation/Fox, Time Warner and Viacom – are going to break ranks and enter into individual contract talks.