New Fox Affils Board Chair Pruett Signals New Day

After a stormy year between Fox and its affiliates, marked by acrimonious battles over retransmission consent spoils, new Fox affiliates board chairman Steve Pruett says the affiliates board and the network are on the same page. "The issues of the past have been resolved," Pruett says. "It's a new day."

With a tip of the cap to pinstriped philosopher Yogi Berra, Pruett added, "The future is before us."

Sounding affable and approachable, Pruett says board priorities one, two and three for 2012 are hammering out successful business models with Fox for the varied means of program distribution, including the increasingly prevalent digital platforms. "It's how we interact with the network in terms of content distribution, and how we build the business models," he says. "There's not even a second priority, really -- it's that important."

Pruett, CEO of Communications Corp. of America (ComCorp), succeeds Brian Brady atop the board. Pruett saluted Brady, chief exec of Northwest Broadcasting, for his dedication to affiliates' issues. "Brian is to be commended for his service," Pruett says. "No one I know has spent more time fostering the interests of affiliates than Brian."

Both the board and the affiliates body will meet in Las Vegas in April. 

Fox hailed Pruett's promotion to chairman in a statement. "Steve has been a valued and thoughtful member of the Fox Board of Governors for several years," said Jon Hookstratten, Fox executive VP of network distribution, "and we're looking forward to him expanding his leadership role as he assumes the chairmanship of the board."

Brady had worked doggedly on the framework of a blanket retrans arrangement for affiliates, which did not come to fruition. With groups ironing out individual deals with the network, and the bulk of them completed, Pruett asserts a proxy retrans arrangement is off the table for the time being. "The board isn't pursuing that further," he says. "It's done. What the individual companies do-that's their business."

Brady holds a chairman emeritus title on the board. Asked if that's a passive or active role, Pruett quipped, "For Brian, everything is an active role." He described Brady as a "phenomenal entrepreneur."

ComCorp owns eight Fox affiliates, including ones in Waco and Lafayette, Louisiana. In May, its WEVV Evansville, a CBS affiliate, added Fox to its .2 channel, replacing Nexstar's WTVW as the local Fox partner.

Pruett says his viewing tastes lean toward sports-NFL and NASCAR, in particular. In terms of entertainment, he enjoys Alcatraz, Glee and American Idol, among others, and is optimistic that the recent talent shakeup at X Factor will build on the show's promising rookie season. "Simon Cowell is determined to build a powerhouse," says Pruett. "He will do that. He's absolutely put his name on the line with X Factor, and it will be more successful."

Pruett gets the sense from Fox that the network sees its affiliates as vital cornerstones to its broadcasting business. "We're ready to engage in discussions about the complex world of multi-screen deals," he says, "and how the network and its affiliates can work together."

Michael Malone

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.