Craig Kilborn, the smart-alecky anchor of Comedy Central's late-night program "The Daily Show," was pulled at the last minute from CBS' presentation to advertisers in New York this week after the cable channel took legal action to block his guest appearance.
Under pressure to deliver the younger audiences that advertisers prefer, CBS, which reaches the oldest viewers of the major networks, has tapped Kilborn, 34, to host "The Late Late Show" when Tom Snyder steps down.
Comedy Central filed for a temporary restraining order in a New York court to prevent Kilborn from appearing at the Wednesday unveiling of CBS' fall schedule, claiming it was a breach of his contract, which expires in August 1999.
Although the court failed to enjoin Kilborn from appearing, it ordered CBS to make it clear to the audience that Kilborn was still tied to Comedy Central. Rather than rewrite the program at the last minute, CBS pulled Kilborn just before Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS Television, took the stage.
CBS has been trying to get Kilborn released from his contract early, but Comedy Central has been unwilling. Networks generally showcase stars of new fall shows at these presentations, making Kilborn's appearance a year before he is free to move to CBS highly unusual.
Kilborn is not the first star Comedy Central has lost to the networks. "Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher" moved to ABC after its initial success on the channel.
Kilborn started "The Daily Show" in 1996 after a three-year stint as an anchor on ESPN's "SportsCenter." In December, he was suspended for a week after making raunchy comments about "Daily Show" head writer Lizz Winstead to Esquire magazine.