Nets Make Nice With Affils in NYC

May 22, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The tone of some of the affiliate-network meetings in New York this week seemed to reflect television station executives’ hopes that the broadcasters’ upfront presentations portend good things.

If there were any fireworks in the private proceedings, neither the network executives nor the affiliates with whom TelevisionWeek spoke were talking. Instead, both sides were genial and upbeat.

That mood marks a shift from earlier in the year, when station executives complained about being left out of ABC’s plans to distribute shows through new platforms such as the Internet and cellphones. ABC’s improved ratings, its new lineup and data on the network’s digital distribution plans account for the improvement.

ABC News President David Westin told affiliates of the resurgent Alphabet Network that he expects to make an announcement soon about “World News Tonight.” Many observers think Mr. Westin plans to say that Charlie Gibson, the unsung mainstay of “Good Morning America,” will work with “World News Tonight” co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas and will take the desk solo after Ms. Vargas goes on maternity leave at the end of the summer.

Station executives were teased with the promise that a male star will be added to the “Boston Legal” cast, and affiliates responded positively to other parts of the new slate.

They also were intrigued by preliminary data from ABC.com’s first 11 days of streaming network shows on the Web. The numbers included clicks on sites that link to ABC.com run by four affiliates and one network-owned station.

About 3 million streams were initiated over ABC.com, network Affiliate Relations Senior VP John Rouse said. The site, run by Belo-owned WFAA-TV in Dallas, was among the top 20 referrers linking to ABC.com over the 11 days and all of the test locals were in the top 100 sites referring to the network’s streaming video page.

The network also said next year’s affiliate convention will be held June 7-10 aboard a Disney-owned liner cruising the Caribbean, a step up from less extravagant meetings in recent years.

At the New York meeting, Ray Cole, president and chief operating officer of Citadel Communications and general manager of WOI-TV in Ames, Iowa, made the transition to chairman of the board of governors.

The CW also made efforts to woo its affiliates in New York, with some local station executives getting wined and dined at lunches and dinners. Like its progenitor networks The WB and UPN, The CW’s affiliate body is less structured and has less leverage over the network.

Since The CW’s programming was largely familiar to the CW affiliates, the group was focused more on issues such as what the new logo would look like and other on-air graphics and promotional packages.

Last week’s upfront also marked the beginning of Elizabeth Tumulty’s tenure as senior VP of network distribution for The CW, ending Ken Werner’s 11 energetic years in that role for The WB. He won’t be missed immediately, because he’ll be helping in the transition through September.