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NBC, Affils Forecast DTV Weather Channel

11/16/2003 07:00:00 PM Eastern

NBC's Olympics Web Site Will Integrate Network and Affiliate Sites

NBC's Olympics Web Site Will Integrate Network and Affiliate Sites

Stay tuned next summer for a new show called Access Athens. But you'll have to turn on your computer and point your browser at NBCOlympics.com to see it.

When you do, you'll see Access Hollywood correspondent Billy Bush filing two original and exclusive video reports each day on what's going on with the star Olympic athletes off the field, as well as other events, celebrities and activities of interest surrounding the Athens Summer Olympics, slated for Aug. 13-29, 2004.

Access Athens is just part of the package that NBC, under an agreement struck with affiliates, arranged recently to bulk up the Olympics Web site and, for the first time, to integrate it with local affiliate Web sites.

According to Terry Mackin, chairman of the NBC affiliate futures committee and executive vice president, Hearst-Argyle Television, perhaps a third or more of the new and improved NBCOlympics.com Web site will have original content, far more than in previous years. It will also have a lot more video on it. Access Athens (segments produced by NBC-owned Access Hollywood with input from NBC Sports) is just one of several new video pieces that will be offered.

New technology being deployed will allow the integration of the network and local Olympics Web sites. For example, if someone in Denver logs on to NBCOlympics.com, a KUSA-TV Olympics page will pop up, giving the user the opportunity to navigate through all sorts of related local and national Web pages, Mackin explains.

Local stations would be responsible for creating stories and features of local interest about the games. Stations also get ad space on the Olympics site to sell to local Olympics advertisers, and it's expected that many stations will combine the Web site and TV spots into integrated ad packages. But stations without the resources to create local content could simply plug their sites into NBC's national site, according to Roger Ogden, NBC affiliate board chairman.

"There are all kinds of sponsorship opportunities," he points out. "It's a pretty decent deal. You have this robust site that's more rich than anything done with the Olympics before. You have the opportunity to customize it and sell it. And you're not paying cash to do it because the funding is part of the inventory-management plan."

That plan has been in place since NBC started buying up multiple Olympics-rights packages in the 1990s. Under its terms, the affiliates and network exchange spots in a way that allows the network to generate more income than it could otherwise to help offset Olympics rights fees. The network credits the affiliates with a monetary contribution to the Olympics rights, and the stations don't have to fork over cash to get the credit.

The plan was recently extended to include the 2010 and 2012 Olympics, the rights to which NBC acquired this summer. The plan was amended to include the Web-site arrangement, as well as a deal that gives the network an extra 30-second spot in The Tonight Show (B&C, Nov. 3).

Sidebars:

NBC's Olympics Web Site Will Integrate Network and Affiliate Sites

NBC and its affiliates are developing a mostly local weather service that would be offered as part of a multicast package on their DTV channels.

"I don't think there is a TV station in the affiliate body that would say there is anything more strategic than weather," says Hearst-Argyle Television Executive Vice President Terry Mackin, who chairs the joint futures committee of NBC and its affiliates.

The weather service, which would also include news updates, is one of two projects that the futures committee has zeroed in on after several months of talks. The other, already a firm go, is a national/local Web site featuring Olympics coverage through 2012 (see page 38).

Last week, the affiliate board sent details of the weather service to all affiliate general managers and station-group heads, soliciting feedback. Replies are due today. Network and board members hope to crunch the results and have a go/no-go decision on the digital service fairly soon.

NBC Chairman Bob Wright mentioned a digital weather/ news service in discussing strategy with investors after the announcement of the NBC-Vivendi Universal Entertainment merger last month. He said the NBC digital multicast might also include HDTV, a movie channel and a "sneak peak" channel promoting Universal movies and NBC TV shows.

The Olympic Web site is being funded by the network as part of a recent agreement to extend the network-affiliate "Inventory Management Plan" through the 2012 Olympic games.

According to Roger Ogden, chairman of the NBC affiliate board and president and general manager of Gannett's KUSA-TV Denver, the weather service could be up and running by the middle of next year. It would be jointly owned by the affiliates and the network, he says.

The service would be "locally driven," Mackin says. But it would also receive national inserts from the NBC News Channel, the Charlotte, N.C.-based news-feed service that is jointly owned by the network and affiliates.

The service's format would be almost the reverse of cable's The Weather Channel, which has a national focus with opportunity for local inserts. Unlike TWC, the NBC service would also feature news and safety alerts.

Weather Channel President Bill Burke says bring it on: "We're confident we have a very strong product. We beat competition all the time, and we compete with [NBC stations] already. We have WeatherScan as a digital all-local product that is in 7 million households and doing extremely well."

NBC and its affiliates formed the futures committee about 14 months ago. "Our aim," says Mackin, "is to come up with strategic projects that we can also get our arms around."

Much of the appeal of the weather service is that many of the resources are already in place and not a lot of incremental expense would be required, he adds. "It really is a marriage of skills. The affiliates have the technology, graphics and personnel in place so we really are seen as the best local experts in our markets. The channel is going to leverage that expertise."

NBC, in turn, has the capability to produce national elements much like the news items NBC sends affiliates through its News Channel feed. "It doesn't take a great deal of additional resources to get to the point where they can do more," Mackin points out.

The aim is to create a branded, ad-supported channel that would air on broadcast and have appeal to local cable systems as well as part of digital retransmission negotiations.

Ogden and Mackin confirm that the weather channel could be one of two full-time digital channels that affiliates and NBC jointly operate alongside NBC's HDTV programming.

One thing the affiliate survey is trying to pinpoint is how many NBC stations are already doing local weather channels on their own and to what extent stations see the current proposal as one that would mesh or conflict with their own business plans. Mackin doesn't believe that a huge number of stations are doing local weather channels now. "We fully accept that individual stations will have to make decisions based on the strategic importance to their own companies."

At the same time, Ogden adds, the broadcast industry has to get off the dime and start implementing some real-world digital services. "We all realize that the world in which we operate single TV stations in individual markets is going to end, whether the other lines of distribution are duopolies, robust Internet sites with video, smart uses of the digital spectrum or all of the above. Now is the time to act. We all need to operate multiple platforms in our local communities to be survivors over the next decade."

NBC's Olympics Web Site Will Integrate Network and Affiliate Sites

NBC's Olympics Web Site Will Integrate Network and Affiliate Sites

Stay tuned next summer for a new show called Access Athens. But you'll have to turn on your computer and point your browser at NBCOlympics.com to see it.

When you do, you'll see Access Hollywood correspondent Billy Bush filing two original and exclusive video reports each day on what's going on with the star Olympic athletes off the field, as well as other events, celebrities and activities of interest surrounding the Athens Summer Olympics, slated for Aug. 13-29, 2004.

Access Athens is just part of the package that NBC, under an agreement struck with affiliates, arranged recently to bulk up the Olympics Web site and, for the first time, to integrate it with local affiliate Web sites.

According to Terry Mackin, chairman of the NBC affiliate futures committee and executive vice president, Hearst-Argyle Television, perhaps a third or more of the new and improved NBCOlympics.com Web site will have original content, far more than in previous years. It will also have a lot more video on it. Access Athens (segments produced by NBC-owned Access Hollywood with input from NBC Sports) is just one of several new video pieces that will be offered.

New technology being deployed will allow the integration of the network and local Olympics Web sites. For example, if someone in Denver logs on to NBCOlympics.com, a KUSA-TV Olympics page will pop up, giving the user the opportunity to navigate through all sorts of related local and national Web pages, Mackin explains.

Local stations would be responsible for creating stories and features of local interest about the games. Stations also get ad space on the Olympics site to sell to local Olympics advertisers, and it's expected that many stations will combine the Web site and TV spots into integrated ad packages. But stations without the resources to create local content could simply plug their sites into NBC's national site, according to Roger Ogden, NBC affiliate board chairman.

"There are all kinds of sponsorship opportunities," he points out. "It's a pretty decent deal. You have this robust site that's more rich than anything done with the Olympics before. You have the opportunity to customize it and sell it. And you're not paying cash to do it because the funding is part of the inventory-management plan."

That plan has been in place since NBC started buying up multiple Olympics-rights packages in the 1990s. Under its terms, the affiliates and network exchange spots in a way that allows the network to generate more income than it could otherwise to help offset Olympics rights fees. The network credits the affiliates with a monetary contribution to the Olympics rights, and the stations don't have to fork over cash to get the credit.

The plan was recently extended to include the 2010 and 2012 Olympics, the rights to which NBC acquired this summer. The plan was amended to include the Web-site arrangement, as well as a deal that gives the network an extra 30-second spot in The Tonight Show (B&C, Nov. 3).

 

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