ABC hits road for greets

Jun 11, 2001  •  Post A Comment

ABC is taking its affiliate act on the road for five days and expects the turnout to be triple the number of affiliate body members that had been expected to attend the annual summer convention, which was canceled due to lack of attendees.
Some 450 affiliate representatives-from group representatives and general managers to marketing and sales executives-are scheduled to turn out along this week’s route, which starts in New York and then heads to Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and Los Angeles.
John Rouse, senior vice president, affiliate relations, and ABC Television Network President Alex Wallau are expected to make each of the stops, but the cadre of network executives with them will change.
The agenda will be consistent: Talk to the affiliates about research; next season’s prime-time lineup; sales, news, online and marketing; and take questions.
Bruce Baker, ABC affiliate chairman and executive vice president of affiliate relations for Cox TV, anticipates affiliate interest in “The Runner,” the interactive reality show being developed by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s production company, and questions about late-news lead-ins.
“That’s still a very real issue for us,” said Mr. Baker, who believes questions about ABC Entertainment’s decision to move “20/20” to Wednesdays this fall and then to shelve the venerable newsmagazine for almost two months will be heaviest in New York and Los Angeles. ABC News President David Westin will not be making the trip but will be available by phone.
Indications from a meeting last week in Los Angeles with some members of the affiliate board are that little, if any, new territory will be explored in the online session, although ABC has plans to increase the number of network HDTV productions.
“There are no plans for anything being rolled out soon,” Mr. Rouse said. “It’s really a question of [discussing] each other’s goals right now.”
The network-affiliate relationship has been strained this year by such issues as the Big 4 networks’ desire to get the cap on station ownership raised, if not removed, and the filing by the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance last March of a petition asking the Federal Communications Commission to investigate network practices.
ABC has been very reserved in its comments about the petition, which CBS directly addressed at its affiliates convention late last month in Las Vegas, earning largely good reviews for inviting dialogue on a more casual and less contentious level.
Mr. Baker suspects ABC “will not give it the kind of showcasing that you saw at the CBS convention.”
While Mr. Baker does expect a lot of questions about the NASA filing during the brief affiliates-only sessions on the agenda, “I don’t really expect much fireworks,” he said.