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Fox And Affiliates Find Common Ground

While last year’s affiliates meeting focused on the divisive issue of reverse comp, this year things were decidedly upbeat.

It was easy to tell how this year’s Fox affiliate board meeting at the NAB Show went: Everyone emerged from the closed meeting smiling.

Even Jon Hookstratten, executive vice president-Network Distribution at Fox, was a happy guy.

“This was 180-degrees versus last year,” Hookstratten said upon exiting the meeting.

At last year’s meeting, Hookstratten was the bad cop, confirming Fox’s tough stance that the network would slice out a steadily increasing chunk of affiliates’ retrans revenues in the form of network compensation, a.k.a reverse comp.

This time around, the meeting was about conflicts but about common interests.

Among those issues: Fox’s recently announced Saturday Night Sports initiative, putting programming on mobile devices and on multiple screens.

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“Fox did a great job,” said Steve Pruett, chairman of the affiliates board and president/CEO of Communications Corp. of America. “They showed they were engaged.”

The network reassured affiliates that, while it will continue to put delayed programming on Fox.com and Hulu, it will not stream live events.

“It’s their intention to include affiliates,” Pruett said. “They’re working on the technology with us and on doing VOD with the stations.”

Last year’s divisive retrans/reverse compensation issue provoked no real discussion, Pruett said.

“We all realized it was an individual issue” among the various affiliate stations and Fox, he said.

Not only did the network assure affiliates that it is stepping up to pre-recession levels on incentives and efforts on programming, it stressed the continuing importance of the network-affiliate model.

“They want us to know they’re changing the affiliate business from one where we’re beleaguered to one where we share concepts and dreams,” Pruett said.


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