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Letterman’s departure will reshape late-night

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In this photo provided by CBS, David Letterman, host of the “Late Show with David Letterman,†smiles while seated at his desk in New York on Thursday, April 3, 2014. Letterman announced his retirement during Thursday’s taping. Although no specific date was announced he told the audience that he will leave his desk sometime in 2015. (AP Photo/CBS, Jeffrey R. Staab) MANDATORY CREDIT, NO SALES, NO ARCHIVE, FOR NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY

In this photo provided by CBS, David Letterman, host of the “Late Show with David Letterman,†smiles while seated at his desk in New York on Thursday, April 3, 2014. Letterman announced his retirement during Thursday’s taping. Although no specific date was announced he told the audience that he will leave his desk sometime in 2015. (AP Photo/CBS, Jeffrey R. Staab) MANDATORY CREDIT, NO SALES, NO ARCHIVE, FOR NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY

In this photo provided by CBS, David Letterman, host of the “Late Show with David Letterman,†waves to the audience in New York on Thursday, April 3, 2014, after announcing that he will retire sometime in 2015. Letterman, who turns 67 next week, has the longest tenure of any late-night talk show host in U.S. television history, already marking 32 years since he created “Late Night” at NBC in 1982. (AP Photo/CBS, Jeffrey R. Staab) MANDATORY CREDIT, NO SALES, NO ARCHIVE, FOR NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY

FILE – In this April 23, 2012 file photo provided by CBS, host David Letterman appears during a taping of his show “Late Show with David Letterman, in New York. Letterman says he plans to retire next year as host of “Late Show.†During a taping of his show Thursday, April 3, 2014, Letterman said he has informed his CBS bosses that he will step down in 2015, when his current contract expires. He told his audience he expects his departure will be “at least a year or so†from now. (AP Photo/CBS, John Paul Filo) MANDATORY CREDIT; NO ARCHIVE; NO SALES; NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY

In this photo provided by CBS, actor Johnny Depp, left, joins host David Letterman on the set of the “Late Show with David Letterman,†Thursday, April 3, 2014, in New York. Earlier during Thursday’s taping, Letterman informed the audience that he will retire in 2015, at the end of his current contract. Letterman steps down with the longest tenure of any late-night talk show host in U.S. television history. (AP Photo/CBS, Jeffrey R. Staab) MANDATORY CREDIT, NO SALES, NO ARCHIVE, FOR NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY

FILE In this June 29, 2010 file photo released by CBS, host David Letterman kisses the hand of country music singer Dolly Parton on the set of the “Late Show with David Letterman” in New York. Letterman announced his retirement during a taping on Thursday, April 3, 2014. Although no specific date was announced he told the audience that he will leave his desk sometime in 2015. (AP Photo/CBS, Heather Wines, File) MANDATORY CREDIT; NO SALES; NO ARCHIVE; NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jimmy Fallon’s fast start replacing Jay Leno on the “Tonight” show the past two months had a secondary effect: David Letterman suddenly seemed old.

The Top 10 list, the ironic detachment, even the set at the Ed Sullivan Theater. Time doesn’t stop for comedy legends, or superstars of any sort. Letterman, who announced Thursday that he will retire from late-night television sometime in 2015, had to feel it.

CBS now faces the challenge of moving on in a reordered late-night world at a time the two Jimmys — NBC’s Fallon and ABC’s Kimmel — have a significant head start.

When Jay Leno left in February, Letterman lost his foil — the man whose victory in the competition to replace Johnny Carson two decades ago he never let go. Leno was someone who spoke his language, though, a generational compadre, and when he left, Letterman was alone.

Fallon and Kimmel have a different style, more good-natured and less mocking of the entire concept of a talk show.

It’s hard to know what role the new competition played in Letterman’s decision. His last contract extension, signed before Fallon took over, was for one year. In the past, he’s done multi-year extensions.

The first time Leno left late-night, Letterman ascended to the throne. Not this time. Since Fallon began at “Tonight,” his show has averaged 5.2 million viewers, while Letterman has averaged 2.7 million and Kimmel 2.65 million, the Nielsen company said. Last year Letterman averaged 2.9 million and Kimmel 2.5 million, so the direction was clear.

Much of late-night now is about making an impression in social media, or in highlight clips that people can watch on their devices and spread around the next day. Fallon and Kimmel have excelled in spreading their comedy beyond their time slots; Letterman has barely bothered.

Late-night television is a far different world than when Letterman and Leno began their competition. There are more entertainment shows to choose from, with personalities like O’Brien, Arsenio Hall, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Chelsea Handler working every night.

CBS will first have to decide whether or not to continue with an entertainment program in that time slot. It’s not the money-maker it once was, but chances are the network will continue in that direction.

The first in-house candidate would be Craig Ferguson of “The Late Late Show,” which currently airs at 12:35 a.m. on CBS and is produced by Letterman. But Ferguson’s star has dimmed, his show quickly passed by in the ratings by Seth Meyers on NBC, and he is considered an unlikely choice.

A month ago, Kimmel was asked by TV Guide magazine whether he would be interested in succeeding Letterman, and he didn’t shoot down the idea.

“I’d definitely consider it,” Kimmel said. “I am loyal to ABC and grateful to them for giving me a shot. I was a guy from ‘The Man Show’

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