An affiliate advisory board is being put together by The CW to help add structure to communications between the network and local stations that will carry its programming when The CW launches this fall.
John Reardon, president of Tribune Broadcasting, which currently owns 15 CW affiliates, has agreed to spearhead the project in its first year. The Tribune stations and 12 CBS-owned stations were committed as affiliates before Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. announced last January that The CW would replace UPN and The WB this September.
Among those who have accepted the invitation to sit on the founding board are Acme Communications President and Chief Operating Officer Doug Gealy, CBS Television Stations President and COO Tom Kane, Lockwood Broadcast Group President Dave Hanna, Clear Channel Television President and CEO Don Perry, Hearst-Argyle Television Executive VP Terry Mackin (former head of the NBC affiliate advisory board) and Sinclair Broadcast Group VP and General Counsel Barry Faber. A first conference call involving all the founding board members may take place as early as this week.
The details of how this affiliate advisory board will function-for example, whether it will have a charter that allows it to negotiate important issues with the network on behalf of the broader affiliate body and then recommend a vote-and how it will be structured will be left to the board members and to the broader affiliate body they are designated to represent.
“We are just the conduit now, putting people in touch with each other,” said Elizabeth Tumulty, The CW’s network distribution VP. She previously was a distribution executive for The WB, which did not have an affiliate board.
“Basically, every other television network has an affiliate advisory board. The WB did not,” Ms. Tumulty said. She said her experience with The WB’s unstructured affiliate dialogue has instilled a belief that “Everybody has a seat at the table. They can call anybody at the network at any time and talk about issues, good, bad, indifferent.”
However, Ms. Tumulty said, “One piece that was missing on a go-forward basis is a forum for the affiliates themselves to get together without the network. Our business is changing so much that it just makes sense to have everybody get together and talk.”
“If handled properly, an affiliate board can be a very good thing,” said Mr. Hanna, the longtime chairman of the UPN affiliate advisory board.
Mr. Gealy, whose small station group was founded by The WB founder Jamie Kellner, said plans to create a WB affiliate advisory board just never materialized.
Today, he said, “You’ve got a lot more things to discuss with the ancillary revenue issues, etc. I think it’s good for organizations or businesses that are closely tied to have structured dialogue.”
Mr. Kane said that even if it does sound “a bit kumbaya,” there is great value in talk, whether between network and affiliate or among affiliates whose needs and business plans reflect the fact that no two markets are alike.