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Exclusive: ABC, Affiliates Launch Reverse Spot Exchange

Almost two months after ABC announced its landmark Inventory Exchange System (IES), which makes batches of network spots available for purchase by the affiliates, the affiliates are now making their own spots available for purchase by the network.

ABC has put extra spots up for sale during the election season and the winter holiday shopping season. ABC and its affiliates body had spoken of making the inventory exchange a two-way street, and it looks as though that street will run both ways January 3-16.

"This reverse exchange just might well lead to other bigger and better things in a future exchange where we can acquire avails," ABC affiliate board chairman Bill Hoffman said in a letter to the affiliate body. "There are many programs where we would like the opportunity to have the opportunity to get additional avails...The Academy Awards, May series finales, and NBA Playoffs to name a few... We would love to develop this as a special revenue stream that is unique to our ABC affiliates."

The initiative is timed for January, when pressure on stations' inventory is light. The programs in which the spots are offered are not among the hottest shows, and many of the avails are in the 8-9 p.m. hour, when stations have ample ad units.

Presumably the network can make greater use of those spots than the stations.

Affiliates will offer the network 16 units, mostly in prime. The first week involves The Bachelor, No Ordinary Family and The Middle in prime, along with a pair of Good Morning America spots, among others.

The second week also involves primetime shows, GMA and the daytime soaps.

ABC will come up with a price for the spots. The network will make its offer to the 200-plus affiliates in its body on November 29. Station partners must decide by December 1. On December 3, affiliates will be told if enough of them took ABC's offers to make the exchange a go.

The ABC affiliates board-and the network-are bullish on the evolving inventory exchange model. "The ABC Affiliate Board has received very positive feedback about the first two exchanges, when affiliates purchased additional inventory from the network," Hoffman told affiliates. "We are hopeful you will look at this reverse exchange as a very welcome source of new revenue."