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NBC, Affils Agree on DTV Service

NBC and its affiliates have agreed to enter a 50-50 joint venture to launch a new digital weather and news-alert service.

It's the first of several "big ideas" the network and its affiliates hope to put into place to exploit the multiple channels digital TV makes possible. The parties have been mulling such a plan since last year. The idea was hatched in an affiliate/network futures committee that brainstorms on how the stations and the network can do business together.

Affiliates approved the venture at their affiliate meeting in New York Wednesday. NBC also said it would launch its new and enhanced Olympic Web site, NBC, in June. The site integrates local station Web sites into the national Olympics site for the first time.

NBC Chairman Bob Wright told affiliates at the closed session that the network would continue to value the relationship with its TV affiliates every bit as much after the merger with Vivendi Universal.

"There is one thing that does not change at all with the Universal deal: Our commitment to you and to the network-affiliate system as the engine that drives our entire enterprise," Wright said. He also stressed the importance of securing digital multicast must-carry to insure that ventures like the weather/news alert service succeed. "We need digital must-carry. We need it to protect our investments in digital. We need it to move forward with the digital transition. And our viewers need it to reap the benefits of digital TV."

The network will issue a white paper on the must-carry issue to bolster its case in Washington today.

Terry Mackin, executive vice president of Hearst-Argyle Television, who spearheads the futures committee for affiliates, was named chairman of the NBC affiliates advisory board succeeding Roger Ogden, executive VP of Gannett.