Are TV Affiliates Too Ho-hum About New Network Distribution Deals?

In the old days, errant and questionable network distribution business decisions would have TV station and affiliate executives screaming at the top of their lungs, with possible threats of some dropped affiliations. All of which, in turn, would have network executives rethinking their moves.

Not so these days. When ABC, NBC, CBS and Warner Bros. made their respective eye-opening and historic moves with iTunes Music Store, DirecTV, Comcast and AOL, affiliate reaction was placed at the bottom of most TV business stories--if at all.

That's because the outcry among local TV station executives was more like a sniff or sigh. For example, Daily Variety thought it was necessary to write a big feature on the TV affiliate reaction, only this week.

But the trades are perhaps responding to station executives themselves, who have been somewhat surprisingly low-key--at least publicly. Take Jim Conschafter, senior vice president of Media General, which owns 15 CBS affiliates among others, who spoke with Daily Variety: "It would be nice to have a relationship with a network that, when they are considering this kind of deal, [they would arrange] to have a conversation with the affiliate board or the station groups. We would certainly be interested in talking about it."



It would be nice? NICE? Talk about your diplomacy. The networks have said in no uncertain terms that they need to enter the digital age to survive--but affiliates still have real business deals, and exclusive ones with those networks for content. Now the networks want to thin down those exclusive windows, so network programming will be instantly available hours after it runs on TV stations.

The networks have convinced TV stations their shows running locally have future value, that people are dying to see their shows "live."

It's as if Sears had a sale on a power drill and the store says you'd better rush in this Wednesday "while supplies last." But then you find out that Target has plenty of inventory--you can buy when you are ready, perhaps on the weekend.

If TV stations think they are only department store in town, they need to open the yellow pages.

And, of course, that would be their first of many technologically wrong business assumptions. Smarter executives would just google for that.

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