ABC Grabs Retrans Fees From Most Affiliates

Anne-Sweeney-

Top Disney executive Anne Sweeney said ABC now has more than 64% of its affiliates paying for rights to offer the network. The affiliates are paying ABC a license fee or a portion of the so-called retransmission consent dollars they are collecting from cable/satellite/telco TV operators.

In the last year, ABC itself has done deals to get cash for its owned stations with Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and Verizon.

The retrans process has "made ABC a multi-revenue-stream business for the first time in history," Sweeney said at the Disney investor event last week.

However, not all affiliates have been keen on paying the network, although Sweeney has touted the Inventory Exchange System that started last fall. The program has the network and affiliates able to exchange spots, allowing each to maximize inventory.

"We've injected marketplace dynamics and entrepreneurial spirit to create more value across the board," Sweeney said.

Sweeney oversees the ABC network and the owned stations, as well as ABC Family and the Disney Channel.

In a presentation, Sweeney noted that ABC endeavors to stay ahead of the curve in the digital realm, having been the first network to sell episodes on iTunes, make them available free with ad support on ABC.com and debut an app on the iPad.

Also speaking at the event was ABC network head Paul Lee, who said ABC's "job is still to make big-tent programming that invites in" all segments of viewers.

Lee said that there are opportunities to exploit Disney's acquisition of Marvel Comics to develop more shows that build family co-viewing, with several series in development, including "The Hulk."

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