ABC's Reverse Inventory Exchange Gets Huge Buy-In From Affiliates

Parties discuss how a longer-term spot market might work
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After two rounds of ABC affiliates buying extra spots from the network, the reverse exchange--ABC buying ad units during stations' slow periods in early January--has the early earmarks of a sweeping success, too.
The 200-plus ABC affiliates had until 6 p.m. Dec. 1 to opt in to the reverse exchange, and one high ranking insider on the affiliates side said there was an "unbelievably overwhelming response" from the station folks to take part--easily enough to give the program the green light for Jan. 3-16.
ABC affiliates board chairman Bill Hoffman called the latest round a success. "It took some doing but it was all worth it," he said today. "It was not a challenge because of the collegial process that was going on between ABC and the affiliates. We just had to keep tweaking the package until we found the sweet spot that made it all work for both parties."

ABC did not comment at presstime.

WPLG Miami VP/General Manager Dave Boylan, a point person on the inventory exchange talks along with WSB Atlanta VP/General Manager Hoffman and WCVB Boston President/General Manager Bill Fine, said both parties seemed to be pleased with their efforts to evolve the affiliate-network model. "Every television station is working harder than ever to find new ways to generate revenue," Boylan said. "We are very happy that ABC affiliates and our network have been able to add to that effort with this innovative Inventory Exchange System."
Notably, a more vigorous inventory exchange is being discussed by the affiliates board and the network. Instead of simply buying and selling each other's avails around hot and cold periods on the schedule (Election Day, Black Friday, the January sales doldrums), both parties are exploring whether they might open up the spot market for longer stretches. One affiliates insider spoke of discussions regarding "remixing the inventory blend"--meaning a spot exchange program could be in place for the length of a TV season to see if it works for both ends in perpetuity.
ABC seemed to come up with the right price points for the reverse exchange; the affiliates insider said the stations that did not opt in typically failed to respond to the network's email, as opposed to flat-out declining the offer. The affiliates were happy to offload the spots, running in the weaker network programs during a painfully slow sales period.
Multiple affiliates say the mood between the network and the body is very positive. Some cite Disney Media Networks Co-Chair/ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney's increased involvement in the station side of the business as a key to the warmer relations.
"ABC made good on its promise," says one affiliate. "It's happy days."

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