LOS ANGELES – CBS, moving quickly to fill a looming hole in its entertainment lineup, named Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” to replace David Letterman in late-night TV.
In the new role, Colbert, 49, will retire the faux conservative character he portrays on his cable show. A five- year agreement was announced Thursday by CBS in an emailed statement. Colbert will take over when Letterman steps down sometime next year.
With the appointment, CBS is turning to a successful cable TV personality who is popular with younger viewers and able to challenge Jimmy Fallon at NBC. “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” is the most-watched program in late-night TV.
“I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me,” Colbert said in the statement. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”
Elements on the show, including staffing and a location, have yet to be worked out, CBS said.
The appointment of Colbert, who parodies a conservative commentator in his nightly show on the Viacom cable network, completes a changing of the guard in late-night.
Letterman, 66, announced last week he plans to retire in 2015, closing out a record 33-year run on late-night television. Fallon, 39, took over “The Tonight Show” from Jay Leno earlier this year. Jimmy Kimmel, 46, began hosting a new 11:35 p.m. show in the ABC network in January 2013.
“Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television,” CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves said in the statement. “David Letterman’s legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today’s announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night.”
Colbert and CBS began their negotiations after Letterman announced he was stepping down, the network said.
CBS and Viacom, both controlled by Sumner Redstone, were a single company before splitting almost a decade ago.
Colbert started on Comedy Central as a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” His character was spun off into a separate show, “The Colbert Report,” that has aired on the cable channel since 2005.
He and his team have won four Emmy awards for the variety series and its writing, CBS said.
Colbert is also author of two books, “I Am America (and So Can You!) and “America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t.”