Affils See Red Over iTunes Pact

Oct 17, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Some ABC affiliates are Raven mad at the deal the Mouse House has struck with Apple Computer to make Disney-owned programs available on Apple iTunes commercial-free the day after they are broadcast on ABC.

The affiliates said ABC wasn’t playing Even-Steven when it sealed the iPod deal it announced with Apple last week, claiming that the new venture would probably create a new asset for ABC, and that as such the affiliates might be entitled to some financial participation in the deal.

This assertion and others were contained in what some affiliate executives characterized as a strongly worded letter last Friday from the board of governors of the ABC Television Affiliates Association to ABC President Alex Wallau, sources said.

In addition to questions about the iTunes deal and their affiliation agreements, the ABC affiliates question whether the Disney-Apple pact is consistent with the affils’ agreement to help ABC pay for its National Football League deal. The NFL agreement includes a concession from ABC that limits repurposing of network programming. The affiliates say next-day downloading is at odds with the agreements regarding repurposing and DVD sales. ABC is limited to repurposing no more than 25 percent of its prime-time lineup.

The affiliates told ABC in the letter they want to know whether the network plans to promote the iPod deal on the network. The affiliates, who argue that their promotion and distribution have helped add to the value of the programs involved in the iPod deal, might not welcome promotion of the availability of ABC content elsewhere.

The affiliates also said that next time they would hope that Disney execs would consider the affiliates part of their proud family and consult with them before entering such deals.

ABC did not comment on the letter.

Jay Sherman contributed to this report.