NAB: Fox Affiliates Primed For Network Turnaround

Complete Coverage: NAB Show 2014

Fox knows it has work to do in prime, and its affiliates caught a glimpse at the shows that just might snap Fox out of its primetime doldrums in an affiliates meeting in Las Vegas April 8.

While past Fox affiliate meetings have featured bickering between the network and its station partners, that rancor appears to be in the rear view.

“There weren’t any of the sparks and fireworks of the past,” said Jeff Rosser, chairman of the Fox affiliates board. “We are trying to work together in our mutual best interest and do what we can. We are in this together.”

There were about 190 attendees, and 38 station groups represented.

The network offered peeks at shows that had what Rosser called “the Fox edge” to them. Standouts included the superhero drama Gotham, according to attendees.

“We just have to see if it’s the kind of programming that will get things turned around,” Rosser said.

Fox advises its affiliates against talking to the press about the meeting, so station leaders were unwilling to speak on the record. One privately called it “the most impressive new programming I’ve ever seen at one of these things. I was blown away by how consistently good [the shows] looked. It’s very promising.”

Gordon Smith, NAB president and CEO, addressed the assembly on regulatory matters and respecting each other’s end of the business. “He said it was critical for the network to appreciate its affiliates and understand the value their content brings to the local community,” said one affiliate.

Rosser reminded the network execs that the affiliates stand with Fox on its major issues, and wanted some assurance that Fox had its affiliates’ backs too. For example, many affiliates are anxious about the FCC’s renewed interest in JSAs, an issue that does not have a big effect on the network and its owned stations. The response that came back was said to be reassuring for the local station partners.

“Even if you don’t have a big dog in the fight,” said Rosser, “from time to time we would appreciate it if Fox would join our voice to make our voice stronger.”

Sports was also a major topic of the meeting, with fledgling Fox Sports 1 helping promote the Fox Sports brand. “Fox Sports is big and it’s gonna stay big,” said Rosser.

The Fox execs in the LVH ballroom included Michael Biard, president of distribution , Kevin Reilly, entertainment chairman, and Joe Earley, chief operating officer. Aereo and Fox’s advanced TV Everywhere plans were also touched upon.

Affiliates privately mentioned how collaborative the vibe was. “It was very civil, non contentious,” said one. “Just a warm and fuzzy meeting.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone is content director at B+C and Multichannel News. He joined B+C in 2005 and has covered network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television, including writing the "Local News Close-Up" market profiles. He also hosted the podcasts "Busted Pilot" and "Series Business." His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The L.A. Times, The Boston Globe and New York magazine.