CBS Affiliates Meeting an Upbeat Affair

Some 200 affiliates attended the CBS affiliates meeting in New York Thursday (May 20), which was presented by CBS Affiliate Relations President Diana Wilkin and featured a special guest pop-in from NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith, who spoke of the importance of broadcasters working together in their myriad struggles in Washington. CBS Corp. Chairman/CEO Leslie Moonves and CBS News/Sports President Sean McManus, among other network brass, also spoke.

CBS is enjoying considerable momentum in primetime, and Wilkin said the affiliate reaction to CBS’ 2010-2011 slate, which includes the Twitter-inspired comedy $#*!  My Father Says and a remake of Hawaii 5-0, and several shows trying out new nights, was very positive.

“We think it’s a really solid slate, and one we can use for the next step forward,” said Wilkin.

The affiliates seemed to agree. “It’s one of the better ones I can remember,” said one GM who was particularly struck by comedies such as the William Shatner-starring $#*! My Father Says.

Affiliates asked not to be named, due to the private nature of the meeting.

Raycom Executive VP/COO Wayne Daugherty was named chairman of the affiliates board in New York. Daugherty was previously the vice chair, and succeeds Tim Busch of Nexstar. Wilkin called Daugherty a seasoned operator and a good representative for the affiliates.

NBC’s affiliates met May 17, and also announced a new board chairman in Scripps’ Brian Lawlor. Fox’s affiliates met in Las Vegas last month, and ABC’s body meets in Los Angeles next week.

Buoying the mood was the fact that CBS, like Fox, announced it had rejoined the NAB recently. “There was a lot of good feeling about that,” said one affiliate, “a feeling that the industry needed that.”

Retransmission consent, which CBS is pushing for as part of stations’ affiliation agreements, was not part of CBS’ presentation, but was brought up on the affiliate side during a Q&A session. Wilkin said such talks are private and of a case-by-case nature; one affiliate credited CBS for going into some detail about sharing retrans, and said he understood the network’s need to stay flush with new revenue streams.

A veteran of affiliate affairs from both sides of the table, Wilkin said the meeting was upbeat and praised the affiliate body for their loyalty. “I don’t think there’s ever been more compatibility than there is right now,” she said.

“The flavor of it all was good,” added an affiliate. “The overall attitude toward us was pretty good.”

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.