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Kilbourn's Defection Leaves CBS In a Lurch

"Late Late Show" host Craig Kilbourn's abrupt announcement last week that he wouldn't be resigning his contract takes on new urgency for CBS to find a replacement as it seems his last show may be sooner than thought.

Late Late Show host Craig Kilbourn to exit showKilborn first gave notice Thursday after five successful seasons on the CBS talk show. The network had been in talks with the sardonic host about extending his contract, but he has apparently decided to shift to a career behind the scenes.

"It was easily the greatest job I've ever had, and CBS was very generous in their offer to re-sign me," Kilborn told Variety. "But I simply want to try something new. I can now focus on writing and producing different television projects I haven't had time for."

However, insiders said contract negotiations had been going on all summer and the two sides were still far apart on the real issue of money.

A day after the announcement, it became apparent Kilborn wouldn't even be returning to the show after an already planned two-week hiatus in early September. This means his last night as host will be Aug. 27.

"Late Late Show" airs at 12:35 a.m., immediately following "The Late Show With David Letterman." As part of Letterman's deal with CBS, his production company, Worldwide Pants, holds the right to program the timeslot. Both will be under pressure to provide an equally rated show so that affiliates don't contemplate taking back the 12:30 a.m. hour to run syndicated programming.

Until a new host is found, "best of" Kilborn reruns may air and guest hosts may be brought in. It's possible that his final few shows could air at a later date, closer to the bow of the fall TV schedule or even as late as November sweeps.

Meanwhile, Kilborn leaves his post on a high note. The show's audience has grown 34 percent since he took over in 1999, averaging 1.7 million viewers this season. Kilbourn has been a popular host for most of his career, first with ESPN, then with The Daily Show, before jumping ship to CBS. He's also dabbled in acting in recent years, including supporting roles in movies like Old School.

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