While baseball season is just underway, the CBS affiliates board had football on the brain when it convened in Las Vegas April 8. CBS’ eight-game Thursday night football package, debuting in the fall, dominated the board’s discussion at the Encore. Chris Cornelius, the chairman, said CBS grabbed the pigskin contests “without a lot of input” from the affiliates, so the station partners needed some assurance that the ratings and promotional might of the NFL would outweigh losses in access and late news.
While the games are not exclusive to CBS—they will be simulcast on NFL Network—Cornelius said the “non time-shiftable” nature of pro football will ensure maximum tune-in. “We’ve given our blessing to that,” said Cornelius, director of business development at Morgan Murphy Media. “At the end of the day, I think it will be a good thing to protect [prime] audience at CBS, and a great platform to launch new programs.”
Another key piece of the meeting is the fate of late night with David Letterman giving notice. “You hate to see a legacy guy like that go,” said Cornelius, “but there’s a time and place for those changes.”
Replacements for Letterman were not kicked around in the meeting. Cornelius referred to the host as “an icon.”
Gordon Smith, NAB president and CEO, addressed the board on the considerable challenges facing broadcasters in Washington, including the FCC’s move to crack down on joint sales agreements. Cornelius said Smith discussed taking the fight to a courtroom setting. Smith suggested “there are not a lot of options at this point other than legal options,” said Cornelius, who noted that the board was “an attentive group” to what Smith had to say.
Its network rivals have a head start on TV Everywhere initiatives, but Cornelius said there was some progress on CBS moving ahead on a streaming app for affiliates powered by Syncbak. He termed the network “a cautious mover” on that front, learning from the steps and missteps of the others. “We are getting close,” he said. “I think it will be done well and I think we’ll have a stake in it. CBS said as much today, and I think it’s exciting.”