ABC, Affils Find Way to Pay for NFL

Oct 11, 2004  •  Post A Comment

ABC affiliates would get a $3 million annual price break in what they contribute to the cost of ABC’s $550 million-per-year NFL contract over the next two years under a tentative agreement that may land on local station executives’ desks this week.

Sources said the deal, officially known as the Network Affiliate Program III, is broken down into two two-year components. For the 2004 and 2005 NFL seasons, affiliates would kick in some $31 million. For the 2006 and 2007 seasons, assuming ABC and the NFL agree to extend their contract, the affiliates’ contribution would return to close to the $34 million per year they anted up under the two-year NAP II deal.

The affiliates also are said to retain the seven extra commercial spots per week during prime time, a provision that could prove especially sweet if ABC’s strong season-opening momentum continues. Some sources interpret that provision as tacit agreement by ABC that the network’s underdelivery in recent seasons had devalued what was supposed to be bonus inventory.

Also said to be contained in NAP III is a continuation of the agreement in which the affiliates get a cut of Disney-owned SoapNet subscriber fees in their markets in return for waiving the stations’ exclusivity rights to the network’s daytime dramas.

An ABC spokeswoman would say only, “We are in the final stages and hope to have a new agreement soon.”

Calls to Young Broadcasting President Deb McDermott, chairman of the ABC Affiliates Association board of governors, were not returned.

Once individual stations have received their copies of the agreement-the per-station cost assessment varies from market to market-and the recommendation of approval from the affiliates’ advisory board, they will have only a few days to agree or disagree. The agreement cannot take effect unless stations representing slightly more than two-thirds of the country’s TV homes sign on.

Early indications are that it should prove easy to get the necessary agreements.