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Iger: Affiliates' Retrans Payments Will Grow

ABC affiliates can expect to kick more of their retransmission consent spoils up to the network, as Walt Disney Company President/CEO Bob Iger told a room full of investors that the company seeks to grow its retrans pot at their expense.

"The good news is, we've struck some deals already with affiliates to gain access to those fees, and we're in negotiations with other affiliates to continue that strategy," he said at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia confab in New York this afternoon. "Given the dynamics of the broadcast business and the relationship of the affiliates, we feel we're not only within our rights, but we will get more cash from their retransmission consent deals."

Networks are increasingly demanding a substantial piece of partner stations' retrans earnings. Some ABC affiliates have privately grumbled at the network's demands, while others have chalked the fees up to the cost of doing business with a major network in the modern media age. ABC is not the only network pushing affiliates for retransmission revenue.

Iger said it's essentially easy money for the network, with no costs involved. "Cash payments for retrans are real, will grow, and there's no incremental cost to get them," he said.

Iger also addressed the issue of "cord-cutting," or dropping a pay-TV subscription to watch shows online. He said he'd seen no evidence of the so-called trend, and that web-connected televisions only spelled more opportunity for Disney's myriad digital ventures, such as ESPN3.

He said traditional TV, despite reports of its demise, remains very viable. "I think it's far too premature to write the epitaph for what I'll call channel television and multichannel television," he said. "We're among a number of companies who've recently done long term deals with distributors for our channel business, which suggests the channel business is not only alive and well, but actually much healthier than people suggest."

Iger was not asked about recent changes in ABC leadership, including the abrupt departure of entertainment president Steve McPherson and news president David Westin leaving at the end of the year.