Affils get networks’ messages

May 21, 2001  •  Post A Comment

For The WB and its affiliates, it’s a case of give and take.
The network is eliminating its 7 a.m.-to-8 a.m. (ET) weekday kids block and giving that hour back to its local affiliates. In return for essentially giving up 60 commercial spots each week in the mornings, The WB will take back 28 spots per week in the 3 p.m.-to-5 p.m. weekday Kids’ WB block.
“That made it all work out,” said Kenneth Werner, The WB’s executive vice president of distribution, who explained that the local stations get relief from the struggle to sell inventory in a “very, very challenging” kids market. Meanwhile, the network can lavish its resources, which are not being cut, on five fewer hours.
The WB also extended for another year the option for newsless stations to shift Sunday an hour later, giving them an extra hour of access.
Turner Broadcasting System Chairman and CEO Jamie Kellner, who launched The WB and now oversees it and all of AOL Time Warner’s other ad-supported TV networks, sketched ideas for cross-platform promotion and program sharing that could bring Turner movies to The WB in the summer and put WB dramas on TNT after they’ve aired on The WB.
Mr. Werner said Mr. Kellner told the broadcasters the plan is all about driving viewers to The WB, and if the result dilutes the WB’s audience, “Then we’ll try something else.”
Boasting 500 representatives of WB stations-a record for the network-it was the biggest but not the only gathering of affiliates and networks between the upfront presentations in New York last week.
ABC, NBC and Fox held short meetings with their affiliate advisory boards. The sessions were invariably described as candid, convivial and well-attended.
In other words, they were a pleasant contrast to the cold war that broke wide open March 8 when a request was made by the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance for the Federal Communications Commission to investigate a laundry list of network practices.
Both NBC and its affiliate board agreed not to comment publicly on their meeting, but a source said that network Chairman-elect Bob Wright, who doesn’t always attend such gatherings, kicked off the session with a few comments.
The topics ranged from engineering to the fall lineup to the future of “Today” anchor Katie Couric after her contract expires next year (NBC hopes to keep her in the family, affiliates were told.)
Among the more potentially sticky subjects, said the source, was the announcement that Pax will rebroadcast NBC’s “Weakest Link” beginning June 1 and the new NBC drama “Jordan’s Crossing” starting in January.
Since many NBC affiliates have equity in Pax stations in their markets via joint sales agreements, said the source, board members seemed unruffled by the plan to repurpose the shows.
As for the other ongoing sticky subject-the question of whether Pacific time zone stations will be allowed to air February’s Olympics from Salt Lake City on tape delay (which some prefer) or live (which NBC Sports and Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol prefer)-there’ll be no decision for another few weeks.
Meanwhile, Fox invited its affiliate board to New York during upfront week for the first time and zipped through the agenda so smoothly the meeting broke up some 45 minutes early.
Fox distribution chief Bob Quicksilver declined to elaborate on specific topics, except to say the deal announced last January to allow the stations to shift their 3 p.m.-to-5 p.m. weekday kids block to 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. is still a go for fall and that “things are going really well.”