Gray Television COO Robert Prather uses earnings call to serve notice that his company isn’t going to share any money they get from retransmission consent deals. “”It’s based on our work and nobody else’s work” and they will “work hard to keep 100 percent of it.” He also says NBC’s Leno at 10 p.m. move “is not working so far.”
Gray Television COO Robert Prather wants no part of sharing his hard-earned retransmission consent revenue with the broadcast networks.
“It’s based on our work and nobody else’s work,” Prather told analysts Monday afternoon during the third-quarter conference call on the group’s earnings. “We ought to work hard to keep 100 percent of it.”
Prather urged other groups to present a “united front” in resisting networks’ claim on retrans dollars, perhaps working through the affiliate boards or the National Association of Broadcasters.
The affiliates should not allow the networks to use “the old divide-to-conquer” to get at the money, he said.
It may be too late for that.
Last week, Fisher Communications CEO Colleen Brown told TVNewsCheck that Fisher agreed to pay ABC “programming fees” to ABC as part of a just-signed affiliation renewal, although she also stressed that the payments were not specifically tied to retrans.
Also, Belo CEO Dunia Shive acknowledged last week in a conference call with analysts that retrans sharing was on the table in her affiliation renewal with ABC.
NBC, CBS and Fox also have made known their interest in tapping the growing retrans revenue streams of affiliates.
Despite the alarms, Gray may be in better position than most. Prather noted that Gray’s affiliation agreements don’t come up for years — CBS affiliates in 2014, ABC affiliates in 2013 and nine of 10 NBC affiliates in 2012.
“This is something that we are all going to be faced with in the future.”
Prather also seemed to be losing patience with The Jay Leno Show, the one-hour talk show that NBC scheduled at 10 o’clock this season in lieu of the usual lineup of scripted dramas.
“The Leno experiment is not working so far,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll stick with it longer than they need to….Their ego won’t let them probably get rid of it soon enough.”
“It’s definitely hurting the lead in to the 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock news in some of our markets.”
Gray’s 10 NBC affiliates are “very important” to the company, he said, pointing out that the cash flow from the stations is about equal to that of Gray’s 17 CBS affiliates.
“They [NBC] need some programming pizzazz, which they don’t have right now.”