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Exclusive: ABC Affiliates Board May Voice Comcast-TWC Concern to FCC

Concerned with the potential might of a combined Comcast-Time Warner Cable, the ABC affiliates board is exploring whether to weigh in with the FCC on the pending merger. The board also hopes other affiliates boards consider doing the same. “We want to at least have a voice in the process,” said Mike Devlin, ABC board of governors chairman. “It’s important for us to state some issues and concerns to the Commission as it begins to review this.”

The negotiating clout of a combined cable colossus as pertains to distribution fees is one concern among broadcasters.

The ABC board of governors met May 21 and the body convened May 22 in Los Angeles. The affiliate leaders got a peek at ABC’s unsuccessful bid for the NFL’s Thursday night package, won by CBS, and a lengthy update on Washington issues, including the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) and joint sales agreements (JSAs), from respected media attorney Wade Hargrove.

The affiliates are concerned about hit drama Scandal moving out of the vital late news lead-in slot, but were heartened by a full showing of Shonda Rhimes’ newbie How to Get Away With Murder, which takes its place in the key schedule slot this fall. Devlin, WFAA Dallas president and general manager, called the dark drama “stunningly good.”

“That may have quelled some concern about losing Scandal [as late news lead-in],” he said.  

The affiliates thanked Anne Sweeney, outgoing cochairman, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney-ABC Television Group, for years of positive relations with the stations. Devlin singled out Sweeney for stellar leadership during a “tumultuous” time in television, and for her forward-thinking take on digital. “She’s been very hospitable [to affiliates],” he said.

Sweeney, leaving ABC to pursue directing, departed with a heartfelt gift from the affiliates: a director’s chair with her name on it.