Differences over reverse comp will for the most part be set aside next week during meetings of the Big Three networks affiliate boards at the NAB Show in Las Vegas, according to the chairmen of the boards. Rather than money, the meetings will concentrate on primetime programming and cooperative plans for distributing local broadcast signals on digital platforms, they say. Fox is the only one of the Big Four networks to schedule a full-affiliates meeting at NAB.
Affils At NAB To Focus On Primetime, Digital
Reverse comp remains a point of friction between the broadcast networks and their affiliates, with the former ratcheting up demands for the programming fees, while the latter resists them.
“The networks hold a lot of leverage at this point in time … as it relates to what they feel they deserve from the affiliates,” said one affiliate.
But those differences will for the most part be set aside next week during meetings of the Big Three affiliate boards at the NAB Show in Las Vegas, according to the chairmen of the boards.
Rather than money, the meetings will focus on primetime programming and cooperative plans for distributing local broadcast signals on digital platforms, they said.
ABC affiliates are concerned about their network’s struggles in primetime this season, particularly in the hours leading into the affiliates’ late newscasts, most notably on Tuesday and Wednesday, said Emily Barr, chairman of the ABC affiliate board and CEO of Graham Media.
“I think we’re all collectively focused on, and concerned about, primetime,” she said. “I don’t think that’s going to shock anybody.”
On hand to address those concerns at the board meeting next Monday (April 18) will be Ben Sherwood, president, Disney-ABC Television Group, and Channing Dungey, president, ABC Entertainment Group.
Dungey assumed the role as ABC’s top programming executive just last February, replacing Paul Lee, who had been in the job since 2010. “We’re looking forward to hearing from Channing and getting to know her a little bit better,” Barr said.
Also scheduled to attend the meeting from ABC: John Rouse, EVP, affiliate relations and marketing; Rebecca Campbell, president, ABC Television Stations Group; and Ben Pyne, president, global distribution, Disney Media Networks.
Digital is also on the ABC affiliates’ agenda. “We’re all wading through the continued migration to digital devices and we continue to have a lot of dialogue about what that means to us as affiliates and what it means to the network, and how people consume television,” Barr said.
ABC’s Rouse confirmed that ABC’s OTT plans will be discussed at the board meeting. “There are plans to expand our Watch ABC app with our affiliates this summer,” he said. “And we are working with the [board] regarding turnkey OTT offerings.”
According to one source, ABC has cut a blanket deal for distributing signals on Sony PlayStation Vue, one of the broadband skinny bundles (60-plus channels for $40 a month).
The deal covers ABC O&Os as well as affiliates, but the affiliates have the option of negotiating individual deals, the source said.
“We’re going to limit our meeting pretty much to digital, where they’re heading, how [CBS] All Access is unfolding,” said Michael Fiorile, CBS board chairman and CEO of the Dispatch Broadcast Group, as he prepared for the CBS board meeting at NAB, also next Monday.
CBS All Access is the network’s direct-to-consumer OTT service, now selling for $5.99 a month. It includes the local CBS station along with a full on-demand library of CBS programming, past and present.
“We have a [revenue-sharing] agreement on All Access for the affiliates and I’m led to believe that many of the affiliates have opted in, and it’s tracking to pro forma, according to what the network tells us,” Fiorile said.
“We’ll deal with programming and news and [other] issues in May when we’re in New York,” Fiorile said, referring to the full CBS affiliates meeting scheduled to coincide with the CBS programming upfront in New York in May.
CBS executives expected to attend the meeting at NAB are Elizabeth Tumulty, president, affiliate relations, and Ray Hopkins, president, Television Networks Distribution.
Fiorile said that CBS and its affiliates and getting along, citing the agreements on All Access and Sony PlayStation Vue and on CBS’s new Thursday night NFL package. ” So, I think all in all, it’s good.”
Ralph Oakley, head of the NBC affiliate board and CEO of Quincy Media, said the focus of the NBC meeting next Tuesday will be the network’s programming plans for this summer and the 2015-16 season, although digital will also on the agenda.
The affiliates have little to complain about on the programming front. Mostly on the the strength of Sunday Night Football and The Voice, NBC is poised once again win the TV season among the 18-49 demo.
Like ABC and Fox, NBC has been working with its affiliates on TV Everywhere, services that would allow authenticated cable subscribers to access broadcast signals on their mobile devices.
But progress has been slow on that front, said Jean Dietze, president, affiliate relations, NBC.
The main obstacle is the protracted nature of negotiations between local stations and MVPDs, she said. “TV Everywhere has been difficult to get launched on the MVPDs,” she said. “The NBC-owned stations are launched, and a couple of other groups that have already signed TV Everywhere agreements with NBC are in the process of working with the MVPDs in their markets to get it launched.”
Dietze will attend part of the NBC Affiliate Advisory Board meeting along with Rhonda Brockman, EVP, business and legal affairs, affiliate relations, NBC; and Scot Chastain, EVP, affiliate marketing and development, NBC.
Fox is the only one of the Big Four networks to schedule a full-affiliates meeting at NAB. It’s scheduled for Tuesday morning at the Westgate hotel, which is adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Last year, the group heard from Fox executives from entertainment and sports who talked about some of the network’s upcoming programming plans, including previewing some of the shows that were eventually announced as part of Fox’s fall lineup a month later in New York.
In addition, the Fox affiliate board is planning to meet on Monday.
Jeff Rosser, a SVP at Raycom Media, is chairman of the Fox affiliate board. He and Fox affiliate executives declined to be interviewed for this story.
Read all of TVNewsCheck‘s NAB 2016 news here.