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Big Apple confab draws WB affils

May 14, 2001  •  Post A Comment

In these cash-strapped, stay-at-home economic times, who travels hundreds, even thousands of miles for a working lunch? Affiliates of The WB, that’s who.
More than 400 executives representing the local stations will descend on New York this week, where they’ll get an instant replay of the 2001-02 upfront presentation given to some 3,000 members of the advertising community just a couple of hours earlier.
This upfront-adjacent lunch is a tradition almost as old as The WB, though it has never attracted as many members of the affiliate body as are expected to attend May 15.
“It seemed curious to us, the tradition of waiting three or four weeks and going to some exotic location, spending three or four days and maybe being wined and dined, but you’ve learned about the most important thing, the lineup, through other sources,” said Kenneth Werner, The WB’s executive vice president of distribution, referring to the endangered ritual of the lavish annual affiliates convention.
ABC, NBC and Fox will hold meetings with their affiliate advisory boards in New York during upfront week, but this year only CBS is holding a traditional affiliates blowout.
Lise Markham, vice president and general manager of Tribune-owned KSWB-TV in San Diego, will make it a three-day trip to New York so she can meet with ad agencies and clients.
“In this day and age, not to get in front of your customer and let them know what you are doing and how you are going to help them achieve their goals is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said.
Ms. Markham will join the WB executives who will hit the road during the third week of June for a five-cities-in-five-days regional sales tour in which the network will meet with station representatives to further explain the programming schedule and suggest sales pitches and strategies designed to make The WB’s younger-skewing audience as valuable on a local level as it is nationally.
“Last year we talked to about 800 [station] people,” Mr. Werner said. “I now see that my comrades [at UPN] also are beginning to do this.”
Last year The WB gave their stations a little help in the kids block by essentially buying back one commercial spot per kids show for the year. The network also allowed stations that do not have news operations to shift prime time an hour later, which meant they could use “some of their stronger sitcom product in the first hour of traditional prime,” said Mr. Werner, “and that seems to have worked for everybody.”
Rob Weisbord, regional group manager for Sinclair Broadcasting, has time-shifted on Sundays at KVWB-TV in Las Vegas, where he is general manager.
The station is, he said, probably one of the strongest homes for The WB’s “Nikki”-though he allows that the fact that Nikki Cox plays a Vegas showgirl might be as great a factor as the later hour.
Mr. Weisbord gets added oomph in the form of a 7 or 8 share from “Nikki” and an extra hour of access from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
That’s the sort of “win-win situation” that drives The WB’s relationship with its affiliates, said Mr. Werner.