ABC Affiliates Want 10 P.M. Hits

Some 175 stations are represented at the ABC affiliates meeting Tuesday and Wednesday (May 26) in Los Angeles, where they vowed to work with the network on issues affecting both parties, such as keeping free over the air television viable and halting the migration of big-ticket sports to cable.

New affiliates board chairman Bill Hoffman said the stations body and the network see eye to eye on most big issues. “We want to keep engaged in problem solving with the network,” he said before Wednesday's afternoon session, “in a way where we both emerge stronger and better equipped for the changing world ahead of us.”

Hoffman runs Cox’s leading WSB Atlanta. He succeeds Darrell Brown atop the affiliates board, a two-year assignment.

The issue of retransmission consent was more divisive. Networks are pushing for a cut of stations’ retransmission consent revenue as part of their affiliation agreements. Affiliates are typically torn between understanding the network’s need to stay flush, and struggling to meet their escalating demands. “It remains an issue for a chunk of the country’s affiliates,” said Hoffman, “who are in negotiations right now for their affiliation agreements.”

The affiliate bodies representing NBC and CBS met with their networks last week, while the Fox body did so in Las Vegas last month.

Execs from both ABC and sister cable network ESPN addressed the affiliates in Southern Cal, who made their opinions felt about major sports events shifting to cable.

Other pressing issues include the affiliates’ desire to see ABC build on its recent success of birthing sitcoms such as Modern Family, and its hope that the 2010-2011 schedule will attract more male viewers. ABC presented its new schedule in New York last week; attention grabbers include the dramas No Ordinary Family and Detroit 1-8-7 and the comedy Mr. Sunshine.

As the ABC affiliates board brought up at its meeting in Las Vegas last month, special attention needs to be paid to ABC’s 10 p.m. hour. “It’s such valuable real estate,” said Hoffman, “as it feeds into our local late news.”

Hoffman said the affiliates want to increasingly tap ABC parent Disney’s technological know-how to better put content in front of users on all platforms. “Hopefully we’ll get some good economic business models together to monetize,” he said.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the L.A. Times and New York magazine.