‘Race’ dates confound CBS affils

Apr 1, 2002  •  Post A Comment

CBS affiliates met with the network last week to air complaints that repeating “The Amazing Race 2” on UPN violates their affiliation agreement.
After hearing affiliate complaints, CBS officials are said to be rethinking their repurposing model as it pertains to UPN. Sources said CBS could announce changes as early as this week.
A little more than two weeks after Viacom-owned CBS began placing “Amazing Race” in a two-day delayed second window on sister network UPN, CBS affiliates have charged that the deal violates an amendment attached to each station’s charter affiliation agreement stating that CBS must wait one week before replaying CBS programming on another network. CBS affiliate board members held meetings last week with CBS Affiliate Relations President Peter Schruth about the lack of compliance.
“We were a bit surprised by the shorter [two-day] window” for “Amazing Race 2’s” secondary airing on UPN, said Ray Deaver, chairman of the CBS Affiliates
Board and general manager of KWTX-TV in Waco, Texas. “Our concern was that we had just done this agreement [on seven-day-delayed windows] and they were already not in compliance with it.”
Negotiated in 2001 as an amendment to the affiliates’ broad agreement with CBS on its 1998 rights package for National Football League broadcasts, CBS achieved a reciprocal compromise that allowed it to repurpose five hours per week of its prime-time series programming. Of that five-hour total, Mr. Deaver said CBS could repurpose no more than two hours of TV series per week on UPN, while the remaining or the cumulative amount of hours can be dedicated to shared windows with cable networks-including such Viacom-owned networks as TNN or MTV.
“It was the best and fairest repurposing deal out there, compared with the other networks, but it had specific language that protected the affiliates’ rights to exclusive windows,” Mr. Deaver said.
Still, Mr. Deaver and other affiliate sources said they were slightly taken aback when CBS suggested that reality series such as “Amazing Race” were exempt from the seven-day-delayed windows. “They just kept saying it was reality programming and that it had a shorter shelf life and needed to get cross-platform play and promotion the same week,” Mr. Deaver said.
Undercutting spot
UPN affiliates also aren’t thrilled with two weeks of weak ratings for the second plays of “Amazing Race.” Over its two Friday airings, “Amazing Race” is averaging a bottom- ranked 0.6 rating/2 share among adults 18 to 49 and drawing slightly more than 1.5 million total viewers-dead last among the 172 programs airing on the broadcast networks this season.
Those UPN numbers are dwarfed by CBS’s successful 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) Wednesday run, where the show is averaging a 5.9 /15 in adults 18 to 49 and drawing 12.9 million viewers through three airings.
One CBS general manager, who requested anonymity, claimed there has been “no beneficial impact” from the UPN airings and said it may only have allowed UPN affiliates to “undercut” the national spot advertising rates they seek for “Amazing Race’s” original airings on CBS. The affiliate source further alleged that CBS Television Stations’ combined group ownership of CBS and UPN stations “may have been the only benefactors,” because the owned-and-operated stations could sell “cumed unit rates” for airings of “Amazing Race” on both stations in a market.
“These duopoly sales situations may work great for the CBS O&O group, but it is not helping outside-owned CBS affiliates, who feel they are being undersold by the UPN stations in their markets,” said the source, who is in a Southeastern market. “While you have to admire CBS’s strategy to cume sales of `Amazing Race,’ there is little or no beneficial, additive ratings impact from the UPN airings for either us or the networks. To the extent of being competing networks with competing brands, who does this help if it’s only confusing viewers over our brand identities in each market?”
Mr. Schruth and CBS officials are said to be thinking of either moving back “Amazing Race’s” UPN run to at least seven days or yanking it off of UPN altogether. A decision is expected this week.
A spokesman for CBS, who confirmed the meetings with affiliates, stressed that the network is “earnestly listening to the concerns from affiliates and will make adjustments accordingly,” but had no further comment on “Amazing Race’s” status on UPN.
March Madness pre-emption
CBS’s examination of its early repurposing experiments will also likely take into account last week’s one-time-only exclusive-to-UPN airing of “March to Madness,” a special one-hour preview of the 2002 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
As first reported in the Wall Street Journal last week, News Corp./Fox-owned UPN stations in up to six metered markets pre-empted the special entirely-out of the expressed distaste for promoting the competing hoops telecasts airing on CBS.
“We simply did not want to carry something that was considered a promotion for our competitor’s basketball telecasts,” said Jim Clayton, VP and general manager of WWOR-TV, New York.