December 16, 2007 / 8:50 AM / 10 years ago

Letterman may return as writers shift tactics

4 Min Read

<p>Talk show host David Letterman reads a tribute to Johnny Carson at the 57th annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles September 18, 2005. Letterman has been pursuing a deal with Hollywood's striking writers that would allow his late-night television show to restart production, his company said on Saturday.Robert Galbraith</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Talk show host David Letterman has been pursuing a deal with Hollywood's striking writers that would allow his late-night television show to restart production, his company said on Saturday.

The company, WorldWide Pants, announced its intention one day after the Writers Guild of America, which represents film and TV writers, told its members it would negotiate separately with member companies of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to restart stalled contract talks.

Independent producer WorldWide Pants hopes to reach a deal as soon as next week, a spokesman said. He declined to say when production might restart or new shows return to airwaves.

"Since the beginning of the strike, we have expressed our willingness to sign an interim agreement with the Guild consistent with its positions in this dispute," WorldWide Pants chief executive Rob Burnett said in a statement.

For six weeks, WGA members who write many TV shows have been striking against the AMPTP, which represents film and TV studios. Talks have been stalled since last Friday, and a chief disagreement centers on fees writers want when their programs are put on the Internet.

The strike has ended production of many talk shows like the "Late Show with David Letterman," which airs on CBS, and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on NBC.

Production on scripted prime time and daytime shows has ground to a near halt, and starting in January many of those programs will be forced into re-runs or taken off air in favor of reality TV shows that are not subject to a WGA agreement.

But if Worldwide Pants can reach an interim agreement with the WGA, new versions of "Late Show with David Letterman" could return in January, according to The New York Times.

Generally speaking in labor talks, an interim agreement provides that both sides will abide by terms of a contract to which the contract's negotiating parties eventually agree.

Wga Shifts Tactics

Worldwide Pants released Burnett's statement in response to a letter sent on Friday by the WGA's negotiating committee to union members saying they would "reach out to major AMPTP companies and begin to negotiate with them individually" instead of dealing with the AMPTP only.

"We will make this demand on Monday, December 17th and hope that each company responds promptly," said the WGA's letter.

Saturday, the AMPTP issued in its own statement saying the WGA is "grasping for straws" and the union has "never had a coherent strategy for engaging in serious negotiations."

WorldWide Pants is an independent producer and can sign an interim deal outside the WGA and AMPTP talks. The company also produces "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson," on CBS.

In a separate statement, a CBS spokesman said the network respected the intent of WorldWide Pants to serve its own interests and those of its employees.

"However, this development should not confuse the fact that CBS remains unified with the AMPTP, and committed to working with the member companies to reach a fair and reasonable agreement," said CBS spokesman Chris Ender.

Earlier this week, show business newspaper Daily Variety reported that NBC's "Tonight Show" and "Leno's program and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" also may be back on air by January. An NBC spokeswoman could not be reached on Saturday.

CBS is owned by CBS Corp and NBC is part of the NBC Universal media wing of General Electric Co..

Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte, editing by Alan Elsner

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