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Exclusive: NBC Affiliates Want NBC to be ‘Player’ in Prime

Digesting the whole of the NBC upfront slate is a tall order, but most of the NBC affiliates gathered in New York for the song and dance liked what they saw, said Ralph Oakley, NBC affiliates board chairman.

Oakley, who by day is president and CEO of Quincy Newspapers, took an informal poll of affiliates, and The Player, a Vegas thriller starring Wesley Snipes, was the top buzz gatherer. “Those in attendance were excited by many things we saw,” said Oakley, citing interesting story lines and an overall feel of quality in the development slate.

Bob Greenblatt, NBC entertainment chairman, helmed the presentation at Radio City Music Hall, and at the end sat at the piano to accompany Dolly Parton, who is working with NBC on a TV movie based on her song Coat of Many Colors.  

After the presentation, some 150 affiliates sat for their annual meeting, with presentations related to news and sports, along with Alan Wurtzel, president of research and media development, and Scot Chastain, senior VP of affiliate marketing, going over their areas of expertise.

The affiliates’ march towards TV Everywhere also was discussed. To date, 30 stations have signed up, along with NBC’s owned stations.

Jean Dietze, executive VP of affiliate relations, said the affiliates were given a password to access WNBC’s mobile product and get a taste for how it looks and works. “We continue to work closely with Ralph and the affiliates board,” she said. As for when adoption would reach critical mass, Dietze said, “we’re working on it,” and noted that announcements would be coming shortly.

One issue where the affiliates and network may not see eye to eye is the unique distribution of the drama Aquarius - NBC will release all 13 episodes, a la Netflix, on its premiere date May 28. “We probably don’t have total agreement with NBC on this issue,” Oakley conceded.

Ted Harbert, NBC Broadcasting chairman, said the all-episodes release is an experiment. “We’re looking at different ways to perhaps attract viewers—millennials--who don’t come to network TV regularly,” he said. “We don’t know if this will work.”

David Duchovny stars in the Manson-themed ‘60s crime drama. Harbert noted that if Aquarius bucks the current NBC prime trend and makes it back for a sophomore season--Mysteries of Laura was the lone freshman to get a renewal--NBC would not release all of season two at once.

For his part, Harbert is excited to see how The Player is received, along with Heartbreaker, Blindspot and the Heroes reboot. He summed up NBC’s prime in two main points: a stronger 10 p.m. lineup, and more broadly commercial shows.

Oakley, representing the affiliates, got assurances from the very top of NBC that the network is committed to the local-national relationship. “We talked about the future a lot,” said Oakley, “and how the partnership moves forward with the networks and affiliates aligned.”

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, Playboy and New York magazine.