The dispute between NBC and Ed Ansin is unfortunate on many levels.
In the early, struggling, days of the Fox network, there was no more supportive and constructive affiliate than Ed Ansin. As head of Fox Network Distribution, I worked closely with Ed and his colleague Bob Leider at WSVN Miami. In those early Fox days, the older networks ridiculed us, we burned through money like confetti and many doubted that we would succeed. But Ed and Bob never wavered. They carried our shows in pattern (not all affiliates did), they generously promoted our shows, they offered valuable and constructive advice and they delivered big numbers to our fledgling network when we needed them.
Because of differing self-interest, network-affiliate conflict is a fact of life and always has been. But those same self-interests are what keep networks and affiliates together. The networks provide affiliates with the best programs and a strong identity. The affiliates provide the networks with the best distribution in television – no other distribution platform is even close. When I was at ABC there was no broadcast station available to us in the Salinas/Monterey market. So, we “affiliated” with a local cable channel created by Time Warner Cable complete with a local newscast. The ABC ratings in that market were about 1/3 of the national average. Later ABC affiliated with the D2 signal of the local Hearst broadcast station and the ratings came back up.
Today, Ed Ansin’s WHDH in Boston is a ratings powerhouse for NBC and those ratings cannot be taken for granted. It is not my place to second guess NBC’s business decisions. The people running the NBC network and the NBC Owned Stations are as talented, experienced and decent as anyone in the industry. This is just a note to say from my own personal experience (1) broadcast affiliates are the best distribution, (2) Ed Ansin in particular knows how to generate big ratings, and (3) if I was running a network today, I would want him as a part of my distribution platform.
For Padden's thoughts on broadcasting's future, the spectrum auctions and more, check out http://boulderpreston.com.
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Preston Padden is a former top government relations executive for media companies such as Fox and The Walt Disney Co.