Interesting interview in TVNewsCheck with Cox’s Bill Hoffman, who is the general manager of WSB in Atlanta and who is also the chairman of the ABC affiliates board.
In contrast to the conflict currently between Fox and its affiliates over retrans monies and a program fee Fox wants, we found this part of the exchange between Hoffman and our good friend Harry A. Jessell telling:
Jessell: Has the fact that Anne Sweeney [co-chairman, Disney Media Networks, and president, Disney/ABC Television Group] now has ultimate responsibility for the network and the stations been helpful…?
Hoffman: I think it’s helpful. You only really have to have a conversation with one person rather than a couple of different people. And Anne Sweeney herself puts a very entrepreneurial eye on things. She has an appetite to find win-win space with the affiliates.
Jessell: While I have you, is there anything else cooking between the networks and affiliates I should know about?
Hoffman: I’ll just give you another example. "ESPN Sports Saturday" that we’ve run 30 times since last spring is the result of conversations with ESPN and ABC about our desire to have more sports on our air. And that was all entrepreneurial thinking and using one of Disney’s great assets, ESPN, to help the affiliate body. Those are the kind of conversations we’re having.
Jessell: I suppose that you’ve been following the feud between Fox and its affiliates?
Hoffman: I have been.
Jessel: As an affiliate board, you’re not engaged in that kind of stuff, right?
Hoffman: Well, we’re always engaged with our network on tough subject matters, especially our financial relationship. It’s not to say we don’t have them. All of us have them. It’s just the way of the world right now. So I have followed the [Fox] correspondence. We have not had conversations like that.
Jessell: What I meant is, is the ABC board trying to cut a blanket deal on retrans sharing as the Fox board is?
Hoffman: No comment.
Most of the interview involves the various phases of the ad inventory swaps ABC is doing with its affiliates that Hoffman is very bullish about.
In the interview, Hoffman adds: "I just want to say that I think this whole thing that we have going with the inventory is a testimony to where the relationship is between Anne Sweeney and her management team, and the ABC board of governors. They’re trying to find places that are win-win, and they’ve been very candid as we allow each other to discover the intricacies of our business in order to find these sweet spots where we can work together.
"I’m proud of the dialogue and the trust that’s happened in these conversations because you’re going to have the tough part of the business relationship going on. But you can segment that in a way that you move quickly into another place where you can work together. And that’s what we’re doing. And I think that’s what makes our relationship distinctive."
Hoffman also notes that none of the other broadcast network affiliate groups have contacted him to explain how the successful ad swap program between ABC and its affiliates is going.