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NBC, Host Daly Seal Deal After Show Held


NBC finalized a contract with television personality Carson Daly on Tuesday after an unusual standoff had caused a last-minute postponement of the MTV host's new late-night talk show.

"Last Call With Carson Daly" had taped its first two installments and was scheduled to premiere Tuesday at 1:35 a.m., but NBC pulled the half-hour show's debut installment minutes before its scheduled air time, apparently over a series of unresolved contractual issues.

Given that the show already was in production and the network had been promoting its arrival, the eleventh-hour standoff raised eyebrows. Viewers were caught off-guard too, tuning in to find a rerun of the Canadian comedy series "SCTV," which had been playing in that time slot.

Daly's popularity is largely due to his role as host of the top 40 music show "TRL," which airs on MTV, a unit of Viacom Inc. General Electric Co.-owned NBC has been eager to co-opt Daly's young fan base. According to a source, a sticking point was MTV's concern over NBC's intent to sell reruns of "Last Call" to cable's E! Entertainment Television, a practice known as repurposing. Under that scenario, Daly--who will continue on MTV--could compete with himself on another cable channel.

Daly's contract at MTV did allow him to pursue outside projects, and he landed at NBC after a previous development deal at Viacom's CBS lapsed. In August, NBC announced that it had signed Daly to a three-year deal, a contract that would presumably enable Daly to appear not only on "Last Call" but other NBC programming as well.

The three-year contract Daly signed Tuesday covers "Last Call" and other provisions in his talent deal.

Daly's manager, Guy Oseary, did not return calls, and his representatives at the Endeavor Agency declined to comment, as did executives at NBC.

"Last Call," scheduled to air after "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," features Daly interviewing guests in a loose half-hour format. Daly's own celebrity is seen as a boon to the show, as demonstrated by the guests lined up for the first week: Grammy-nominated R&B singer Alicia Keys, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and rap music mogul Marion "Suge" Knight.

The debut episode, featuring Keys, was set to air early today.

The Daly predicament is only the latest for a late-night time period that has been nettlesome for NBC. For years the half-hour was occupied by "Later," which came on the air in 1988 as a one-on-one interview show with NBC sportscaster Bob Costas. After Costas left in 1994, he was replaced by Greg Kinnear. After Kinnear departed in 1996, "Later" languished under revolving hosts, becoming a low priority among executives at NBC.

The arrival of Daly is supposed to rejuvenate a moribund time slot and, more important, begin to showcase him as a fresh, young NBC personality. Instead, he became the butt of a joke on O'Brien's show broadcast early today, after O'Brien had taped a special episode Monday to help boost the series' premiere.

"I'm pretty sure the show is coming up right now," O'Brien said in signing off, "but if not, we'll talk about it tomorrow."

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