ABC Affils Sign ‘MNF’ Pact

Dec 20, 2004  •  Post A Comment

It took longer than expected to get there, but ABC has a new agreement with its affiliates for sharing the cost of “Monday Night Football.” The pact addresses a number of key issues, including clearance of key programming, program exclusivity and repurposing, and it includes two two-year components that cover four years, through July 2008.

A joint announcement issued last week by Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of media networks for The Walt Disney Co. and president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, and ABC Television Affiliates Association Chairman Deb McDermott, said the affiliates have “overwhelmingly approved” the new deal. The affiliates association’s board had recommended in October that fellow affiliates approve what is officially known as the Network Affiliate Program III. It reduces the affiliates’ monthly cash contribution to “MNF” from $34 million to $31.3 million per year in the August 2004-July 2006 portion of the contract. It raises their contribution to $35 million per year for the final two years, presuming ABC and the National Football League sign a new “MNF” agreement.

Ordinarily, if the network does not get the approval of affiliates reaching slightly more than two-thirds of the country body within days, the network has the right to restart the negotiations. But ABC took a position of patience after two deadlines came and went in October without the requisite number of approvals. ABC was patient for reasons that reportedly had more to do with station groups having no long-term affiliation contracts yet than with any sticking points in NAP III, which is technically an amendment to the long-term affiliation contracts.

Over the four years covered by NAP III:

  • Affiliates continue to get seven extra 30-second spots in prime time per week.
  • They also are protected from falling into a negative compensation situation created by the NAP III assessments.
  • The affiliates agree to maintain their current clearance of “The View” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
  • The general cap on repurposing of the network’s prime-time programming continues to be 25 percent.
  • A new wrinkle enables ABC to issue DVDs containing network prime-time programming between seasons without it counting against the repurposing cap (TelevisionWeek, Nov. 22).
  • The affiliates continue to get a cut of Disney-owned SoapNet subscriber fees in their markets in return for waiving the stations’ exclusivity to ABC daytime dramas.

    “This new agreement provides a contractual framework to further strengthen our core businesses and build a generation of mutually beneficial opportunities,” Ms. Sweeney said in the announcement.

    “We believe this new agreement is a win-win for both the affiliates and the network,” said Ms. McDermott, who also is president of Young Broadcasting.