NAB 2016: ABC Affiliates Hear From Dungey, Mull New OTT Plan

Complete Coverage: NAB Show 2016

Las Vegas—ABC’s Board of Governors met Monday afternoon with Ben Sherwood, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group and Channing Dungey, the newly-named president, ABC Entertainment Group, and other top network brass.

CBS and Fox affiliates boards also heard from their networks in closed-door meetings in nearby Encore Hotel conference rooms.

Dungey is on the hot seat after several of ABC’s 10 p.m. shows, scheduled by her predecessor Paul Lee, faltered this year. Those poor performances created bad lead-ins for affiliate late night newscasts around the country.

Arriving at the meeting, Dungey said she expected affiliates would ask probing questions about her scheduling plans for the upcoming season. While that could have been a testy exchange, she emerged from the closed-door meeting all smiles. “We’re trying to get this party started,” Dungey exclaimed.

Later, Emily Barr, chairman of the ABC affiliate board and CEO of Graham Media, gave Dungey high marks. “She’s very clear about her goals,” Barr said. “Obviously, the proof is in the pudding. She told us her top priority is a 10 o’clock show.”

At the meeting, Sherwood and John Rouse, executive VP of affiliate relations and marketing, gave details on ABC’s Clearinghouse proposal to smooth out bumps in ABC’s TV Everywhere plans, announced only that morning when Sherwood mentioned it as a part of his speech at the opening NAB session.

The Clearinghouse proposal, Rouse explained after the meeting, would make it easier for affiliates to make TV Everywhere deals with DirecTV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue. The trick is that OTT negotiations can become a three-legged stool, Rouse explained, involving nettlesome agreements with multichannel video program distributors (MVPDs), the network and the local stations. Getting all three on the same page isn’t as easy as it might sound.

Clearinghouse essentially is offering to let affiliates latch on to deals ABC has made, specifically with DirecTV and Sony, that smooth out rough technical and financial issues. It’s purely voluntary, Rouse explained, just allowing stations to “get to market faster and more efficiently.” There’s no deadline for affiliates to take up ABC’s offer.

Rouse said the affiliate reaction was largely positive, and Barr agreed. “You didn’t see anybody coming out of there [screaming],” Rouse joked.