Nets Plan for Low-Key Meetings

Jan 12, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Fox, UPN and NBC have scheduled what are expected to be quiet affiliate meetings in conjunction with the National Association of Television Program Executives conference, which opens Sunday, Jan. 18, in Las Vegas.
As in recent years, Fox and its affiliates will make the most of the days preceding NATPE. On Friday afternoon, the Fox affiliates advisory board will hold a closed meeting before they meet with network executives. On Saturday morning there will be a general affiliates meeting-at which Fox-owned stations are expected to be present, in a break from recent tradition.
John Tupper, the president of Prime Cities Broadcasting and chairman of the Fox Affiliate Advisory Board, said issues on the table include the affiliates’ concerns about “the lack of success” during the November sweeps; use of the stations’ digital spectrum (Fox “appears to be quite receptive” to exploration of joint options, Mr. Tupper said); and NFL contracts.
Though Fox only late last year wrapped up prolonged and sometimes testy negotiation of a cost-sharing agreement with the affiliates, the network expects the National Football League to start negotiations for new deal this year, even though the current contracts do not expire until 2006.
This time, Fox plans to keep affiliates informed throughout the process since there has been growing reluctance at the local level to share the cost of sports contracts that lose millions for the networks and that are not equally attractive for all local stations. “I think there is a very marked difference in the Fox Network’s view,” Mr. Tupper said. “You can only lose so much money so long.”
He also wants to begin discussing how personal video recording devices might impact the advertiser-dependent broadcast business.
Sunday will bring the traditional working meeting between the NBC affiliates board and executives from the Peacock Network. Discussions are expected to include such topics as the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens (NBC Sports and Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol will be on hand) and movement on the first two projects to come from the affiliate-network futures committee: the fast-developing local pages on the NBCOlympics.com Web site and the digital multicast weather service the network proposed (Brandon Burgess, executive VP of business development for NBC, will be present).
Monday morning the UPN affiliates board will discuss business, including the replacement of board member Michael Conway, the soon-to-retire executive VP and general manager of Viacom-owned UPN station WTOG-TV in Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla. Board Chairman Dave Hanna, the president and general manager of the Lockwood Broadcast Group, said he expects nothing “earth-shattering” to come out of the meeting. “For a nice change, it has been a relatively quiet year,” Mr. Hanna said.
CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves, who oversees UPN, will attend and is expected to discuss Viacom Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin’s recent suggestion that he would like to see UPN expand to six nights of programming.