A day after Chase Carey, News Corp. president and COO,
discussed potentially blowing up the broadcast model for Fox, the affiliates
meeting in Las Vegas looked to be full of pyrotechnics -- fueled by station
partners who are unclear about their role in a different network model. On the
contrary, the meeting showed an affiliate body that appears united in its
support of Fox taking down outfits such as Aereo that build a business on the
backs of broadcasters' content. The meeting, according to several affiliates,
was short on the vociferous debates seen in previous years, and showed both parties
seemingly eager to work together.
"I think everybody supports our position and is
generally understanding about where we're going," said Mike Hopkins,
president of affiliate sales and marketing at Fox.
Affiliate reps emerging from the tenaciously guarded Las
Vegas Hotel ballroom said they were instructed not to share details of the
meeting with the media; none would speak on the record. Fox officials also told
them many in the press had blown Carey's statements out of proportion, and
neglected to report that, if Fox ends up upending the network model, it intends
to keep affiliates in the equation. "One option could be converting the
Fox broadcast network to a pay channel," Fox said in a statement on Monday,
"which we would do in collaboration with both our content partners and affiliates."
The Fox officials in the meeting emphasized that point to
the station partners, but did not provide details on how the
relationship would or would not change.
The affiliate partners got some insights on Fox's plan to
increase live streaming offerings, including the Sports to Go app, to be
branded locally by stations. "It's aggressive and it feels like something
we can take to market," said one affiliate. "We feel like partners on
They also got glimpses at new programming, which one group
leader said was "outstanding...just outstanding."
"I like the story arcs, I like the production
values," said another station level person.
The station partners are pleased with the performance of The Following, but want to see a major
turnaround in prime -- especially with American
Idol not popping ratings like it did in its heyday. "If they would've
gotten up there and said how pleased they were with their fall, we would've
called bullshit," said one person on the affiliates side. "They
didn't. They showed they had a plan."
Local broadcasters up and down the Vegas strip this week are
increasingly united in thwarting the Aereos and Aereokillers and other
streaming services of the world, and most believe the content
owners will win. Affiliates in the room at the Fox meeting credited the
network for working out a plan B should Aereo prevail in court -- and genuinely
seemed to believe they would remain significant partners if Fox should end up
as a pay channel.
"I'm very impressed that they're out in
front of this," said one Fox station vet.