Leaders on the ABC affiliates side applaud official word of the arrangement between ABC News and Univision to create a 24/7 English-language news and lifestyle network, but are unsure about what their role in the network will be.
The as yet unnamed channel is slated to debut in the first half of 2013, and the partnership calls for ABC News and Univision News to share newsgathering and production resources. The ABC stations, which contribute to, and borrow from, the collective NewsOne affiliate service, express some anxiety about exactly how they fit into the new venture.
"Based on preliminary information, the ABC Affiliates Association's Board of Governors is concerned about ABC News' proposed news partnership with Univision," said Bill Hoffman, ABC affiliates board chairman, in a statement. "The network has broadly discussed this new venture with the board. We hope to receive more information from ABC and an understanding and clarification of the implications of the use of local affiliate news content that is contributed by affiliates to the NewsOne co-op. Our goal is to promote and enhance the news product, the competitive performance, and brand of each affiliate's local newscasts, and our focus, in consultation with the affiliate membership, will be on the effect ABC News' partnership with Univision will have on that goal."
An ABC News spokesperson said there would be an "ongoing dialogue" with affiliates, and believes they are protected under their NewsOne agreements. "We greatly value our relationship with all our affiliates," added the spokesperson. "As they learn more about this, I think that whatever concerns they have will be diminished."
The new network, the spokesperson believes, "will ultimately be beneficial to everyone."
Affiliates, and not just ABC ones, often complain about being in the dark about network ventures that affect them. Several managers at ABC stations said last week they knew nothing of a new Web series starring Katie Couric until they read about it in the trades. That program is a joint venture between ABC News and Yahoo.
While they're withholding their full support until more details are revealed, some key affiliates seem encouraged by the ABC News-Univision collaboration. "I think it makes great sense," says Colleen Brown, president and CEO of Fisher Communications, which owns both ABC and Univision affiliates in Seattle and Portland. "Having more news presence is good for the industry, good for ABC, and good for the affiliates. I think it's an interesting approach, and I encourage them to do it. I just don't know what it means for the affiliates."