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Gift for NBC Affils; CBS Backs Off Plan

Dec 18, 2006  •  Post A Comment

A fortnight before Christmas, holiday tidings appeared markedly different for affiliates of NBC and CBS.

NBC affiliates were thrilled to learn they will get six unexpected 30-second spots in the Jan. 6 National Football League wildcard double-header carried by the network.

In the CBS affiliate family, stations were bristling at the network’s plan to extend prime time by one minute to 11:01 p.m. for the rest of the year. For the affiliates, that would have meant a delayed start for late local newscasts and the loss of the final local commercial break in prime time-adding up to what some affiliates regarded as an appropriation of their time.

NBC affiliates were thrilled. CBS affiliates pushed back, and the network scotched the idea.

Within hours after CBS broached the idea to Freedom Broadcasting President Doreen Wade, president of the network’s affiliates board, members of the group had notified other CBS affiliates. They in turn registered their disapproval to Peter Schruth, president of affiliate relations for the CBS Television Network.

The network’s plan, which also would have had potentially negative consequences for the CBS-owned and -operated stations, was dropped.

Scatter Strength Helped

A CBS spokesperson said the strength of the fourth-quarter market for scatter advertising prompted the network to discuss a number of opportunities. After internal conversation and consultation with affiliates, the network decided against the plan to extend prime time, the spokesperson said.

“CBS was exploring a number of ideas to ensure a strong finish to the year,” Ms. Wade said. “Once they fully vetted this one, it didn’t flesh out.”

The NBC affiliates board was more upbeat after itss first meeting with NBC Universal Television Group management, which this month has been reconfigured after several executives left for other jobs.

NBCU’s message in presentations by division chiefs stressed that the network remains committed to strong affiliate relationships and strategic partnerships, said Schurz Communications Senior VP for Broadcasting Marci Burdick, who is chairman of the NBC affiliates association.

The best news was word that the affiliates were getting bonus NFL spots.

“This is a wildcard NFL game-exceptionally attractive inventory,” Ms. Burdick said. “Most of us have good demand for that that kind of visibility on the part of local advertisers, so it was very welcome news.”