The ABC affiliates board met with the network in Las Vegas April 16, hammering out the latest version of their inventory exchange program for the pending political season, while saluting growth in both morning news and the tail end of primetime, and addressing common issues in Washington.
With GMA poised to top Today for its first weekly win in 16 years, the mood in the room was upbeat. "We have great appreciation for ABC News," said Bill Hoffman, the ABC affiliates board chair, and executive VP at Cox. "The ensemble is only going to get better and better."
The affiliates are also curious about the GMA spinoff in daytime, which will test this summer, in place of The Revolution. The show will air at 2 pm starting July 9. "It will be interesting," said Hoffman.
The congregation discussed another daytime move, with the network's daytime division reporting to entertainment. Hoffman saw it as a plus. "We think it makes for a more holistic look to the lineup," he said.
The affiliates have been pushing for more successful comedies, and a stronger last hour of prime, for years, and they appear happy with the results. Hoffman singled out Revenge and Once Upon a Time for serving up more viewers to stations' late news. Once Upon a Time's success, he said, was something of a pleasant surprise.
Speakers included James Goldston from ABC News and John Rouse from the network's affiliate relations department. Gordon Smith, NAB president and CEO, addressed the group for about 30 minutes. Among the issues discussed with Smith was the FCC's push on local broadcasters to put their public files that reveal political buys online. Hoffman thinks it's a bad idea -- labor intensive, costly, and perhaps a little too revealing for stations. "We are adamantly opposed to that," he said. "We don't see the benefit for viewers at all."
On a happier note, the network and affiliates will continue their popular inventory exchange, where affiliates can buy and sell extra spots with the network around peak election times. Hoffman was a bit reluctant to share details, calling it proprietary, but was very enthusiastic about it. "It's really going well -- we're very, very happy with it," he said. "It's working for both parties, and it's going to get smarter and bigger."
Hoffman will step down from his board chairman role next month, with Dave Boylan, VP and general manager of WPLG Miami, taking over.