Alan Carr has signed an exclusive deal with Channel 4 that is thought to be worth nearly £3m over two years, after the broadcaster fought off feverish interest from the BBC and ITV.
The deal with the 32-year-old co-presenter of The Sunday Night Project gives Channel 4 exclusive rights to all of Carr's output on British television and will run from January 2009 to December 2010.
Both ITV and the BBC expressed interest in signing Carr, who was named best live stand-up comedian at last year's British Comedy Awards. ITV was reported to be prepared to pay £2m over two years.
The new deal is, however, significantly less than the £18m three-year deal Jonathan Ross sealed with the BBC in 2006, nor does it match that of the ITV presenters Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, who are said to receive £3.3m a year. The deal will see Carr continue to present The Sunday Night Project alongside Justin Lee Collins. He will also produce another series of his quiz show, Alan Carr's Celebrity Ding Dong.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to be spending two more glorious years with Channel 4", said Carr. "It's a civil ceremony made in heaven."
Sebastian Scott, co-founder and executive producer of Princess Productions, which makes The Sunday Night Project, gave the Northampton-born star his first big break in television. "The nation has taken him into their hearts because he's very funny without being nasty," he said. "He's a genuinely nice guy and if he's ever being rude to someone he'll do it with a look or an inflection that shows he doesn't mean it."
One person unlikely to be so pleased about Carr's deal is the Countdown veteran Carol Vorderman. The 47-year-old presenter resigned from the show earlier this week after being told she would have to take a 90 per cent pay cut. It came only a day after the resignation of Des O'Connor, 76, who stepped into the main presenter's chair following the death of Richard Whiteley in June 2005.
Channel 4 said the show would continue despite the loss of both presenters and a cut in the show's budget from £6m to £4m. Vorderman was paid £1.2m for 40 days' filming a year, or £30,000 per day of work.
Belt-tightening at the broadcaster comes at a time when it has told Ofcom, the industry regulator, that it will need £100m of public money to help fund Next on 4, its programme for digital public service broadcasting. Ofcom's leaked blueprint for the future of British broadcasting suggested it may need only £30m-£40m in the medium term.