CBS Ups NFL Ante for Affiliates

Jun 6, 2005  •  Post A Comment

CBS wants its affiliates to assume a larger share of the bill for the network’s new six-year, $3.7 billion NFL deal, which kicks in after next season, and to share their digital spectrum with a multicast channel that would complement the network.

Any increase in football-related assessments will be negotiated by the affiliates’ advisory board and is likely to involve inventory swaps.

At the CBS affiliates convention last week in Las Vegas, CBS Executive VP Marty Franks reintroduced the concept of a “multiple-friendly” digital channel stocked with local programming, time-shifted news programming and shows that capitalize on hits already on the network’s most-watched lineup in years. The network also said during the convention it will continue to experiment with “CBS Evening News” this summer and addressed ways it plans to enforce decency standards.

Mr. Franks raised digital multiplex programming ideas that included cameras trained on Tiger Woods during golf coverage, alternate camera angles and statistics during football games, “The Making of ‘Survivor'” and outtakes from CBS comedies or “The Amazing Race.”

“It’s like DVD extras,” Mr. Franks said.

One possibility for accommodating local content is morning-show-style cutaways within the CBS-produced programming, but “We’ve got a lot more work to do and a lot more research,” Mr. Franks said, adding, “There certainly is enthusiasm to get going on something.”

Mr. Franks first raised the concept of a CBS multicast channel last year and said he is convinced such a channel-featuring extra entertainment content-could get buzz not likely to be generated by the weather and news fare offered by NBC’s and ABC’s digital efforts, giving CBS stations leverage in retransmission negotiations. He also recommended the stations take a tougher stance on “availability-or rather nonavailability-of your HD programming” with multichannel distributors in their markets.

“Our HD programming has become a key weapon in the fight for subscribers among multichannel providers,” he said during his presentation to affiliates at the Bellagio.

CBS News President Andrew Heyward did not offer any clearer a picture of “CBS Evening News” after the much-anticipated evolution promised when Dan Rather stepped down as anchor in early March.

Mr. Heyward said there would be some announcements this summer. “The strategy for reforming and revitalizing the evening news begins with a simple idea: The theme is team,” he said. “We are showcasing a team of experienced, energetic journalists who present the world from multiple points of view, not a dominant anchor surrounded by a bunch of people you don’t know and don’t care about.”

Mr. Franks also told the affiliates that a “final bulwark” against possibly indecent material getting on the air is expected to be operational at CBS’s Broadcast Center in New York and Television City in Los Angeles.

The systems have been customized for CBS and can handle audio and video and HD delays as well as live deletes.

Doreen Wade, the Freedom Broadcasting president who is chairman of the CBS affiliates board, summed up the convention as “very positive.” The meeting drew more attendees than the annual event has in several years.