Nets Make Face Time for Affils

May 16, 2005  •  Post A Comment

ABC, Fox Broadcasting and The WB will piggyback affiliate functions with upfront programming presentations this week in New York.

On the day after its upfront, ABC expects some 300 affiliate representatives at a midtown hotel. They will hear a full lineup of presentations by network division executives and will hold an affiliates-only session along with a meeting between network executives and members of the ABC affiliate advisory board.

As the affiliates watch Tuesday’s presentation of ABC’s fall lineup they will look for indications of how the network is proposing to improve performance in the 10-11 p.m. block, which continues to be weak and thus problematic as a lead-in to late local newscasts. “They’re killing us,” said a local TV executive.

There also is likely to be some talk about the status of the 24-7 digital news channel, ABC News Now, and the bundling of ABC News digital services, especially with regard to the integration of local news content.

The WB affiliates are breaking from their tradition of a lunch for all affiliates in a hotel ballroom immediately after the upfront presentation. This year The WB will host a dinner Monday, the night before its upfront, for about 125 people, mostly WB affiliate general managers and group owners, in a Time Warner Center space that frames stunning views of Central Park.

One thing that hasn’t changed: the dispensing of Froggies, the statues of WB mascot Michigan J. Frog that are awarded to stations that have excelled in such categories as ratings and promotion. The affiliates and some of their clients will be invited to the netlet’s upfront Tuesday morning.

On Wednesday Fox’s affiliate board will hold a half-day business session, followed by a meeting with Fox Network executives. There will be no general session with all affiliates, although some may attend the upfront presentation to advertisers Thursday afternoon. In the past the Fox affiliate meetings have been held on Friday after the upfront presentation.

Brian Brady, president and CEO of Northwest Broadcasting and chairman of Fox’s affiliate board of governors, said the subjects will include “standard stuff”-including programming and sports-as well as the recent court decision that tossed out broadcast flag industry standards endorsed by the Federal Communications Commission and designed to make it hard to copy digitally delivered content beyond personal recording.

“We’re disappointed the court ruled the way it did,” said Mr. Brady. “We want Congress to take a look at it. We need to protect the content. It’s a big issue for over-the-air broadcasters.”

“We’re all on the same page,” a Fox spokesman said.

Mr. Brady said affiliates are looking forward to hearing from former FX Networks President and CEO Peter Liguori, who succeeded the well-liked Gail Berman as Fox Entertainment president last month. Ms. Berman accepted a job as president of Paramount Pictures.

“He’s got a great track record,” Mr. Brady said of Mr. Liguori.

Viacom-owned CBS is the only network that holds a full-blown annual affiliates convention (scheduled for June 1-3 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas). A spokesman said there are no plans for affiliate-network business sessions in New York this week. Nor will there be formal sessions with affiliates of Viacom-owned UPN, the spokesman said. Affiliates will be welcome at the UPN upfront presentation to advertisers Thursday morning.

Some executives from NBC-owned stations and NBC affiliates in the Northeast region, along with members of the advisory board from around the country, are expected to be in the audience for NBC’s upfront today. But the network has met in large and small groups with affiliates twice in recent months, so no other meetings are planned for this week.