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Oct 2, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Wednesday, October 2

ABC, affiliates board finalize NFL plan

After months of negotiation ABC and the ABC Television Affiliates Association board of governors have agreed on a two-year plan by which the affiliates are expected to contribute some $34 million a year toward the network’s NFL costs. In return the affiliates will get additional prime-time advertising inventory, continued limits on the repurposing of ABC programming and other tradeoffs and a compromise on cross-promotion of programming on other ABC TV platforms.

The announcement Wednesday afternoon described the agreement as “a plan that will frame the network-affiliate relationship for the next two years.” The plan now goes to the entire affiliate body for review. An all-affiliates conference call has been scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Ultimately, it will be up to each affiliate (or group owner) to decide whether to sign on to the deal, which calls for smaller-market stations to kick in less than affiliates in large NFL markets to help the network defray the costs of its $550 million-a-year contract. Stations that agree to the deal will get seven additional 30-second spots a week in prime time.Participating stations also will get from the network a five-year assignment agreement guaranteeing that the network will not try to insert itself into the sale of a station. ABC has maintained that it should be able to have something to say about ownership of an affiliate if it changes hands, one of the issues raised by the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance in its 2001 request that the Federal Communications Commission investigate some of the business practices of the big broadcast networks.

The assignment question now is disengaged from the NFL agreement, officially known as the Network Affiliate Program II, as are questions related to retransmission consent, which also will not come up again for five years for stations that sign on to NAPII.

The plan maintains the lid on the network’s repurposing of its lineup at 25 percent of the prime-time entertainment program and makes various allowances for repurposing other types of programming.

On cross-promotion, ABC will be able to do some time-and-date-specific cross-promotion of such Disney-owned networks as ABC Family Channel and ESPN. However, those stations whose corporate policies prohibit specific promotion of competing networks and channels will be allowed to cover the cross-promotional spots with promos for network programming. The affiliates’ participation in Disney’s SoapNet was guaranteed by the original NAP.

ABC affiliates representing a total of 67 percent of the country must agree to NAPII for it to take effect. Early feedback indicates that is doable, especially since station groups represented on the affiliate board account for some 60 percent. Those stations that choose not to participate can expect to lose inventory in and around big events, such as the Oscarcast, on the network.At first glance, the amount the affiliates are being asked to pony up each year appears to have dropped dramatically compared with the original NAP, which expired at the end of July. However, the first NAP dealt with four years of NFL licensing fees in only three years.

“We are essentially holding on to the dollars,” Bruce Baker, chairman of the affiliate board of governors, said of the assignment agreement.

The new agreement does not address significant questions posed by talks about a possible spinoff and merger of ABC News and CNN, but the subject did come up because word of the negotiations between Disney and AOL Time Warner broke during the final stages of bargaining between ABC and affiliates.

“There were questions, and we addressed the questions,” said Alex Wallau, president of the ABC Television Network.

Mr. Baker said much the same but noted that, “It is a little troubling” to hear what some affiliates read as signals from Disney that “ABC is not one of their core businesses.” Still, both sides seemed relieved to have crafted a document that addresses so many issues that have been bones of contention.

“I think it is a very significant step toward clearing the air on a number of things,” Mr. Wallau said. “We want them to be strong and powerful presences in their markets, and they want us to be strong. We are both trying to understand and deal with each other’s business.”

“The affiliates and ABC worked hard to find a common ground so we can move forward with this plan and the overall relationship,” Mr. Baker said. “The end result is intended to strengthen both ABC and the affiliates.”

When the new agreement expires at the end of July 2004, there still will be two years remaining on the NFL’s agreement for “Monday Night Football” (and other TV packages), but it will be in the middle of a year in which a large number of ABC’s 10-year affiliation agreements are scheduled to run out.

Through the fourth game of the season, “MNF” is up 5 percent in total viewers compared with a year ago and is up 30 percent in men 18 to 34, up 20 percent in adults 18 to 34, and up 8 percent in adults 18 to 49.

Reilly elected president of entertainment group: Kevin Reilly, president of entertainment for the emerging FX cable network, has been unanimously elected by the Hollywood Radio and Television Society’s board of directors to serve as president of the entertainment society for the 2002-2003 term, which began last month. Mr. Reilly succeeds former HRTS President Rick Rosen.

Under Mr. Reilly’s guidance, FX is currently in production of the second season of the Emmy Award-nominated series “The Shield,” which became the first basic cable network series to earn an Emmy trophy with Michael Chiklis’ recognition as outstanding lead actor in a drama series. He was also responsible for the original movies “Sins of the Father” and “Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie.”

Serving as HRTS’s vice president will be Jordan Levin, president of entertainment for The WB. Dick Askin, president and CEO of syndicator Tribune Entertainment, was elected as secretary. Stephen McPherson, president of Touchstone Television, was picked to serve as treasurer.

Elected to three-year terms on the board of directors by the HRTS membership were Adam Berkowitz, head of television packaging, Creative Artists Agency; Bob Levinson, executive VP and head of worldwide TV, International Creative Management; Jeanne Newman, attorney and partner in the firm of Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman & Warren, L.L.P.; and Dawn T. Ostroff, president of entertainment for UPN.

The HRTS, a fixture of the entertainment community known primarily for its industry newsmaker luncheons, has sponsored scholarships, grants and mentoring programs involving several Los Angeles-area universities and public schools throughout its 55-year history. It is affiliated with the International Radio and Television Society in New York.

ABC scores Tuesday demo win: ABC’s planting of two new hit comedies (“8 Simple Rules” and “Life with Bonnie”) on Tuesday two weeks ago and its expansion to a two-hour sitcom block last night gave the Alphabet Network its first evening win of the new season in adults 18 to 49. “Frasier” settled down in the ratings from last week’s season opener and NBC was down for the night, but rookie NBC sitcom “Hidden Hills” is still scoring good lead-out ratings retention from its cornerstone lead-in.

For the opening 8 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. (ET) frame, ABC got another winning outing in adults 18 to 49 from “8 Simple Rules” (5.2 rating/15 share average), improving 4 percent from its previous week’s turn (5.0/15), according to Nielsen Media Research fast national data. The 8:30 p.m.-to-9 p.m. return of “According to Jim” for its season opener also won the frame in adults 18 to 49 (5.1/14), improving 13 percent from last week’s run of “Life with Bonnie” (4.5/12) in the time slot. “8 Simple Rules” and “According to Jim” averaged a second-ranked 12.7 million total viewers in the hour, behind only CBS’s “JAG” drama (14.4 million) for the 8 p.m. hour.

In its second week of double runs at 8 p.m., the first half-hour of NBC’s new “In-Laws” sitcom improved 3
percent in adults 18 to 49 (3.4/10). “In-Laws'” 8:30 p.m. airing (4.0/11) improved 18 percent on its own lead-in but dropped 11 percent week to week in the frame.

Moving into its regular 9 p.m.-to-9:30 p.m. slot for the first time, “Life with Bonnie’s” second-ranked 4.8/12 in adults 18 to 49 retained 94 percent of its “Jim” lead-in and improved 6 percent on its week-ago score in the 8:30 p.m. slot. ABC’s series premiere of the workplace comedy “Less Than Perfect” opened in the 9:30 p.m. slot with a second-ranked score in adults 18 to 49 (4.4/11), which marked healthy 91 percent retention of the demo from “Bonnie.”

Coming off its much-hyped week-ago premiere episode, “Frasier” took an expected 36 percent drop in adults 18 to 49 (5.6/14 vs. 8.8/22) but still won the 9 p.m. slot in the key demo. Although NBC’s rookie “Hidden Hills” dropped a similar margin week to week in adults 18 to 49 (5.0/12 vs. 7.4/18), it retained 89 percent of its lead-in in the demo. CBS’s “The Guardian” won the 9 p.m. hour in total viewers (13.7 million) and households (9.8/15).

ABC’s second turn with “NYPD Blue” won the 10 p.m. hour in adults 18 to 49 (4.9/13), but was down 7 percent from its week-ago premiere (5.3/14). CBS’s “Judging Amy” returned with its season opener, scoring a second place in adults 18 to 49 (4.6/12) and beating “NYPD Blue” in total viewers (15.4 million vs. 12.7 million) and households (10.8/18 vs. 8.0/13).

It all added up to a much-needed winning night for struggling ABC among adults 18 to 49 (4.9/13), where it improved 11 percent from its week-ago Tuesday score (4.4/12). NBC came in second in adults 18 to 49 (4.5/12), dropping 17 percent from its week-ago outing (5.4/14). CBS won in total viewers (14.5 million) and households (10.0/16), but was down 5 percent week to week in adults 18 to 49 (3.7/10 vs. 3.9/10).

Although Nielsen’s fast nationals have a degree of error when it comes to live events, Fox’s airing of Game 1 of the American League wild-card playoff game — between the Anaheim Angels and the New York Yankees — scored a preliminary 3.2/9 in the key demo in prime time.

KCBS/KCAL duopoly refining news lineups: KCBS-TV and KCAL-TV are refining their news lineups to eliminate overlap and increase the amount of news produced by the Viacom-owned duopoly in Los Angeles. Starting Monday the two stations’ combined news operation will be producing 11 hours of live, local programming each weekday and a total of 611/2 hours per week.

KCBS will move its midday news to 11 a.m. (and shift “The Young & the Restless” to 11:30 a.m.) and KCAL will continue to offer an hour of news starting at noon weekdays.On Saturday nights starting this weekend, KCAL will add a half-hour newscast at 9 p.m. followed by a half-hour sportscast at 9:30.

Myman to lead creative affairs at HBO: Harvey Myman has been named VP of creative affairs for HBO Independent Productions. Mr. Myman, formerly senior VP of comedy development for Columbia TriStar Television, will report to Russell Schwartz, HIP’s executive VP, creative affairs, business and planning.The appointment follows the recent announcement of a two-year first-look deal between HIP and ABC under which the HBO unit will create programming for the Alphabet Network.