December 15, 1998 12:00 AM

The battle for TV’s morning market — expected to commence full steam on Monday — is already heating up. Late this week Mariah Carey suddenly backed out of a street concert that was set to kick off CBS’s “The Early Show” on Nov. 1, and she will appear on NBC’s rival “Today” show instead. The pop diva’s switch was a blow to CBS, which is hoping for a flashy launch for its new show, to be hosted by Bryant Gumbel and Jane Clayson. The move also suggests just how vicious network competition for big-name guests is likely to get. Carey says she pulled out of “The Early Show” because she was nervous about CBS’s ability to obtain a city permit for the concert. Within an hour of her announcement, she was scheduled on “Today.” Steve Friedman, a producer for “The Early Show,” brushed off the snub with a dig at his NBC rivals. “We not only have to book our own show,” he told the Associated Press, “but we have to help the others come up with their ideas.”

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