By Eric Kelsey
(Reuters) - Comedian Stephen Colbert, who made his mark satirizing political conservatives on cable television's Comedy Central channel, was named on Thursday to succeed veteran late-night star David Letterman as the host of the CBS "Late Show" next year.
Colbert, 49, currently host of "The Colbert Report," a weeknight show in which he parodies the role of a dim-witted, big-egoed conservative pundit, has signed a five-year agreement with CBS, the network said in a statement.
Details of how the format of "Late Show" will change under Colbert's stewardship, or whether it will remain based in New York City, have yet to be determined.
But Colbert told New York Times television correspondent Bill Carter that he would drop his Comedy Central persona, which he first popularized as a member of the cast of the "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
"I won't be doing the new show in character, so we'll all get to find out how much of him was me. I'm looking forward to it," Carter quoted Colbert as saying in a Twitter message.
News of Colbert's impending move to CBS marks the latest in a recent shakeup of the late-night television landscape at the major networks.
Jay Leno bid farewell as host of NBC's top-rated "The Tonight Show" in February and was replaced by Jimmy Fallon, who had been following him as host of "Late Night." Fallon in turn was succeeded by Seth Meyers.
Last week Letterman, 66, announced on his show he was retiring from late-night television sometime next year when his CBS contract expires. Letterman began the "Late Show" on CBS in 1993 after 11 years as the host of NBC's "Late Night" program.
"Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television," Leslie Moonves, CBS president and chief executive officer, said in a statement announcing the deal with Colbert.
"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 tapes his Comedy Central show in Manhattan, but it remained to be seen whether the "Late Show" would stay in its current venue at the nearby Ed Sullivan Theater.
"Simply being a guest on David Letterman's show has been a highlight of my career," Colbert said in a statement. "I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave's lead."
He added: "I'm thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth," a reference to Letterman's trademark grin. (Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Writing by; Steve Gorman; Editing by Dan Grebler and James Dalgleish)