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Will Stewart Land in Letterman’s Chair?

Is Jon Stewart headed for the Ed Sullivan Theater in 2011?

As first reported in B&C, the Daily Show host last week signed a two-year contract extension that will keep him at Comedy Central through Dec. 31, 2010.

The length of the extension coincides with the 2010 expiration of David Letterman’s deal at CBS, which will fuel the speculation that Stewart could be in line to take over at CBS if Letterman decides to step away after his current deal is up.

Stewart’s current contract was set to expire at the end of 2008.

While the deal does not include any additional duties specifically, Comedy is already increasing Stewart’s presence on the Web. The network just launched a new Website featuring clips dating back to 1999, when Stewart took over the show. Comedy plans to expand the site to include the show’s entire history, and increased online initiatives are a possibility down the road.

No doubt, Comedy would have liked to lock Stewart up for a longer period. And the fact that they didn’t no doubt pleases CBS CEO Les Moonves, a well-known fan of Stewart who would kill to have him jump into Letterman’s chair.

Stewart has been courted by other networks, as well. He met with NBC executives Jeff Zucker and Marc Graboff earlier this year, as reported in B&C.

The news adds to an already-fascinating landscape in coming years for the late-night world.

With Jay Leno not expected to hang up his microphone if and when Conan O’Brien supplants him on The Tonight Show, rampant speculation about a potential late-night game of musical chairs has been ongoing for months.

NBC said it is planning on handing the 11:30 p.m. slot to O’Brien, despite Leno’s numbers still dominating the terrain. Should the network decide to change its mind, it could keep Leno and pay O’Brien a penalty in the neighborhood of $45 million, knowing that it would then lose him to the competition.

Either way, one of the two big names should be available in 2009, and Fox wants back in to late-night. Network executives have said that they would write the big check necessary to land an established star should the right one become available.

The network recently shot a pilot with sports personality Joe Buck as it looks to build out its late-night division.

Fox’s competition for a Leno or O’Brien could come from ABC and even the syndication world, among other bidders. ABC’s entertainment side still wants to wrestle the 11:30 p.m. time slot away from its news division’s Nightline.

ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel has grown into a strong asset and could be a smart play for Fox if he were ever to become available. Kimmel has consistently grown his audience despite the incompatible Nightline lead-in and the heavily female-oriented programming on ABC.

Wanted: Psychic Kids

The networks are flocking to shows featuring self-proclaimed psychics and people with supposed supernatural abilities.

Lifetime recently launched America’s Psychic Challenge, featuring “psychic” Lisa Williams. NBC is set to launch an American Idol for magicians this week with Phenomenon, featuring “mentalist” Uri Geller and hot A&E illusionist Criss (Mindfreak) Angel.

Now it appears a program in development is stooping to a new low in order to hop on the psychic train, a Nostradamus Express if you will.

According to an ad posted on Craigslist, an “Emmy-nominated producer” is seeking “psychic children” for a new show.

Parents of prospective children with supposed “psychic” or “medium” abilities are encouraged to apply, with the potential of being whisked away to a “three day program” where the kids would “learn about their gift and adjust…” all while being carefully recorded for posterity, of course.

With all the hubbub surrounding CBS’ Kid Nation, and the proliferation of paranormal programming, a “kid psychics say the darndest things” sounds less Crossing Over than crossing overkill. You don’t have to be psychic to see that.

With Ben Grossman and Alex Weprin

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