The Fox affiliates body meeting in Las Vegas April 13 surely had Conan O'Brien near the top of the original agenda, at least until the late-night funnyman announced a day earlier that he was taking his act to TBS.
Most of the 100-plus affiliates gathered at the Las Vegas Hilton let out a sigh of relief when O'Brien was suddenly off the table. When Fox execs jokingly polled the room to see how many affiliate managers wanted to see them attempt to get O'Brien to the negotiating table once again, just two or three raised their hands in support of an O'Brien-hosted show on Fox.
Instead, the meeting focused on pressing issues like retransmission consent and the shift of high-profile programming from broadcast to cable, with the latter's ability to lure sporting events through subscription revenue. The affiliates were concerned to see the financial hit NBC took on the Winter Olympics, and the economic challenges facing broadcast networks when it comes to the escalating cost of sports rights.
"Everybody was talking about retrans and spectrum," says one attendee. (The meeting was closed to the press and affiliates were asked to keep its details private.)
As he did with the affiliate board meetings in Vegas this week, NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith paid a visit to talk up the three priorities voiced during his opening address at the annual broadcasters show: radio's performance tax, retransmission consent and broadcasters' concerns over the FCC's plans to reclaim spectrum.
The overall mood at Fox's Vegas confab was positive, said attendees, with affiliates generally pleased to report a revenue picture that mirrors the state of the nation's rebounding economy.
"The meeting was upbeat," says one Fox affiliate manager. "Everyone seemed cautiously optimistic about the economy and business."