NBC, Affiliates Focus on Digital Must-Carry Rules

Apr 21, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The new NBC affiliates futures committee is already being positioned as a “new cornerstone” in the network-affiliate relationship.
The committee is still shy a couple of affiliate representatives and still must choose the one or two potential business partnerships for which it will seek the network’s support and collaboration. It will work closely with Business Development Executive VP Brandon Burgess. The panel is headed by Hearst-Argyle Television Executive VP Terry Mackin, who also is vice chairman of the NBC affiliates advisory board and is in line to succeed Gannett television executive Roger Ogden as chairman.
“We need to press forward,” Mr. Ogden said to more than 160 affiliates gathered in Saturday Night Live’s Studio 8H for the annual NBC affiliates convention in New York. NBC Television Network Group President Randy Falco set the tone of the gathering: finding “the overlaps where the network and affiliates agree” and can work together for the desired legislation and public perception.
That includes the business development mandate of the futures committee and digital must-carry.
“Powerful digital consumer technology in the hands of fully consolidated multichannel distributors has created the cable and satellite monster we were all afraid of,” Mr. Falco told the affiliates.
“There is one important issue that we can all get behind: digital must-carry. It is essential for our future that MSOs carry your digital signal in its entirety,” said NBC Chairman Bob Wright. “Any viable business model for digital includes a hybrid of HDTV and multicasting. So the entire multicast must be carried by the cable operator or our viewers will be disenfranchised.”
On other subjects, affiliates:
* Heard NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker’s short-term plans (including super-size Friends episodes throughout the May sweeps), his longer-term plans (despite the reality craze, the network’s “bread and butter” will continue to be quality scripted comedies and dramas) and plans for this summer, when some 50 percent of the schedule is expected to be original.
Mr. Falco said the summer programming will be “largely unscripted.”
Mr. Ogden said that while there still are “holes to fill” in the sweeps lineup, with stunts such as the supersize Friends, a Martha Stewart docudrama and Madonna’s guest appearance on Will & Grace, affiliates are getting solid promotional “hooks.”
* Heaped praise on NBC News’ performance during the war in Iraq and the role played by MSNBC as an additional resource. Mr. Ogden said Gannett’s KUSA-TV in Denver, like many other affiliates, carried MSNBC after Today ended extended coverage in the first couple of weeks of war. With the MSNBC signal, KUSA earned 5 and 6 ratings points instead of the usual 3s, Mr. Ogden said.
* Heard from NBC-owned stations President Jay Ireland that his group and the affiliates are in the same business and grapple with many of the same issues.
* Were briefed by NBC Sports and Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol about the 2004 Athens Olympics and by NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer.
Asked how affiliates are feeling about modestly rated Arena Football League’s first winter season on 50-50 partner NBC, Mr. Ogden said that while market-to-market results are “spotty,” “They see it as something that still has potential.”
“There are no losses to be spoken of,” Mr. Falco said.
Other presenters at the affiliates convention included Washington-based Senior VP Bob Okun and broadcast and network operations President John Eck.