Affiliates Want a Say in Apple-Network Talks

As interest builds around Apple’s planned streaming TV product, and its intent to have broadcast content--national and local--in the channels mix, the station chiefs want to ensure they have a say in the negotiations. Apple has reportedly asked the networks to get the green light from partner stations, but multiple affiliate board chairmen say they’ve not heard from their allied networks about how the Apple-network TV talks may be progressing.

“Clearly the affiliates will want a seat at the table,” says Ralph Oakley, chairman of the NBC affiliates board. “If and when the discussions take place, it’s our desire to be involved directly in those discussions.”

Similarly, Fox’s affiliates board chairman, Jeff Rosser, did not know to what degree Fox has engaged with Apple. “The network has not asked for any input of the affiliates,” he says. “We anticipate that, if they don’t reach out, we will reach out to them.”

The Fox affiliates owners and group heads held a meeting in Dallas Thursday in which a variety of topics, from regulatory to Fox-related, were covered.

The New York Post reported that Disney or CBS will likely sign the first deal with Apple. Emily Barr, ABC affiliates board chairperson, said she could not comment on whether the board is involved in discussions, or how they are progressing. “Broadcasters are looking very closely at the different OTT possibilities,” said Barr.

CBS affiliates board chairman Michael Fiorile could not be reached for comment.

Sources say it’s possible that Apple could negotiate directly with the affiliate boards or station groups themselves, though with dozens of owners, large and small, the latter would be onerous. “We hope talks would be through the affiliate board,” said Rosser. “It’s much more efficient.”  

Oakley said that individual group negotiations with Apple “are certainly a possibility,” but conceded that such discussions are preliminary.

Station executives contacted by B&C have not seen the deal terms, but partnering with Apple certainly holds intrigue for them.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment at presstime.

The company aims to launch the unnamed product as soon as late fall, said the Post.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone is content director at B+C and Multichannel News. He joined B+C in 2005 and has covered network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television, including writing the "Local News Close-Up" market profiles. He also hosted the podcasts "Busted Pilot" and "Series Business." His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The L.A. Times, The Boston Globe and New York magazine.