Networks Rethink Affil Meetings

Nov 25, 2007  •  Post A Comment

After several years of same-time, same-place affiliates meetings, all of the Big Four broadcast networks are planning dramatic changeups for their annual get-togethers with their local partners in 2008.
Fox Broadcasting is moving its convention from the eve of January’s National Association of Television Program Executives in Las Vegas to Los Angeles on March 19, where it will be held in conjunction with its prime-time development presentation, assuming that is not derailed by a prolonged writers strike.
NBC is uncoupling its affiliates convention from the Television Bureau of Advertising’s annual marketing conference and will stage its big meeting with stations May 21-22 in Los Angeles, instead of March 26 in New York.
After a decade or more in Las Vegas in early June, the CBS affiliates meeting will be held next year in New York in conjunction with the network’s upfront presentation. Affiliates will be invited to attend CBS’ big show for advertisers at Carnegie Hall and the party afterward at Tavern on the Green in Central Park on May 14. The following morning (while sister network The CW is doing its upfront show), there will be closed business meetings, followed by a big luncheon and open business meeting.
ABC, which this summer took affiliates on an exotic Disney cruise in the Caribbean, is returning to its modern practice of holding its meeting in New York in tandem with its May 12 upfront.
Fox’s decision to change time and place was made in order to give affiliates a look at programming planned for the 2008-09 season, a spokesman said, emphasizing that the plans are strike-contingent.
CBS was the only broadcaster that had continued to hold an old-fashioned, free-standing affiliates convention; the other networks had curtailed theirs as they found themselves increasingly at odds with the local stations.
What CBS affiliates saw during the Las Vegas gatherings was a TV-dinner version of the network’s upfront presentation without the major musical acts and big-ticket production values. The decision to bring the affiliates to New York and the upfront “is about letting them see the better show,” said a CBS spokesman.
“We are trying something new this year,” an NBC Universal spokeswoman said, adding that the network is “excited for the affiliates to visit Universal [Studios Hollywood] and looking forward to a great meeting.” It will open the afternoon of May 21 and close with a big dinner (with spouses welcome) the following night.
The original connection of the NBC affiliates meeting to the TVB’s marketing conference—which has been partnered for six years with the New York International Auto Show—had been regarded as a move to support the TVB after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and to help stations spend money more efficiently.
But for many affiliates, already hard-pressed to find enough time for station group executive meetings and visits to their advertising representatives in addition to attending the TVB conference, the NBC functions became another competing agenda and a source of stress.
A TVB spokesman said the marketing convention is well established in its own right.
Marci Burdick, the Schurz Communications senior VP for broadcasting who is chairman of the NBC affiliates association, said that while the relationship with the TVB has been a “happy” one, the affiliates were pleased when NBC executives broached the idea of a separate convention and offered more than one option.
“Barring strike-related complications, in late May NBC will have more programming to show us,” said Ms. Burdick, who added she is expecting NBC’s affiliates convention to be the most entertaining and high-profile next year.
“We are thrilled,” she said.


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