ABC And Affiliates Get Down To Business

The two main topics of discussion at the network’s meeting Monday with its Affiliate Board of Governors were addressing problems with ABC's primetime lineup (particularly at 10 p.m.) and the continuing development of TV Everywhere and OTT plans.

Executives from ABC affiliates, along with network executives, were all feeling pretty good about the recognition ABC received at the opening session of this year’s NAB Show in Las Vegas on Monday.

“It was a very exciting day for ABC this morning,” said Ben Sherwood, president, Disney-ABC Television Group, later that day after an afternoon meeting with the ABC Affiliate Board of Governors. “I think that the standing ovation for Bob Woodruff was a wonderful moment.”

Sherwood, who is also co-chairman, Disney Media Networks, was referring to the response the opening session audience had for Woodruff, the former ABC News anchor (and currently a correspondent) who was seriously wounded in a bomb explosion in Iraq in 2006. Woodruff appeared to receive this year’s NAB Distinguished Service Award.

Woodruff had been preceded on stage by Sherwood himself, who gave a keynote speech in which he urged broadcasters to continue to innovate in the face of new competitors, which, he pointed out, have emerged at different times throughout the history of broadcast television, and TV survived.

Sherwood was also interviewed on stage in a one-on-one chat with NAB President Gordon Smith. The ABC showcase even included an elaborate sizzle reel highlighting ABC’s programming that the session audience watched before Sherwood appeared at the podium to deliver his speech.

Whether all the attention paid to ABC at the morning session and the good feelings it engendered was a factor or not, participants in the Board of Governors get-together in a hotel meeting room later said the meeting was constructive.  The two main topics of discussion were ABC’s primetime lineup and the continuing development of TV Everywhere and OTT plans, said Emily Barr, chairman of the Board of Governors.


ABC affiliates have been particularly concerned about weaknesses in the network’s primetime schedule, especially at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. CT) leading into affiliates’ late newscasts on some nights that has seen some of the network’s lowest-rated shows this season. Channing Dungey, ABC’s new head of programming, came to Las Vegas to attend the meeting and address affiliates’ concerns.

“It was wonderful to spend some time with Channing Dungey,” Barr said. “I thought she was very clear about her goals and I think the group felt positive about what she had to say. Obviously, the proof will be in the pudding.”

Barr said Dungey acknowledged the problems at 10 and she sought to assure the board that she is on the case. “She actually said that her top priority is a 10 o’clock show,” Barr said. “We all felt sincerely good about it.”

Dungey herself said little to reporters when she left the meeting. “We’re trying to get the party started,” she said when asked what she told the affiliate group about her 10 p.m. plans. Dungey has been in her new job only since February, when she replaced Paul Lee.

The Board of Governors and ABC executives also talked about TV Everywhere and OTT. On the latter subject, the network and affiliates discussed a deal the network had made with Sony to make ABC programming available to Sony’s Playstation Vue streaming platform. With the ABC-owned stations set to participate, Sherwood in his keynote speech Monday morning announced an initiative called ABC Clearinghouse that the network hopes will establish a template or framework, based on the deal it made for its O&Os, that affiliates not owned by ABC might adopt for their own agreements for Sony PlayStation Vue and other OTT streaming services going forward.

“It’s more about getting to market faster perhaps and maybe more efficiently,” said John Rouse, EVP, affiliate relations and marketing for ABC, of the new Clearinghouse initiative. “We have cut a deal with our owned stations for PS Vue,” he said. “For our affiliates we are offering a ‘clearinghouse’ deal based on that agreement.”

“We talked about Sony and the OTT space in general,” Barr said. “We’re continuing to listen and to absolutely try and find a path to work with them on all this because we all believe this is a space we have to be in.”

“Great meeting, great partnership,” Sherwood said of the Board of Governors meeting as he made his exit.

Read all of TVNewsCheck‘s NAB 2016 news here.

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