NFL mixes it up with ABC, Fox


While ABC and its affiliates are in heated negotiations on renewal of their
National Football League pact, Fox and its affiliates are preparing to talk about their deal,
which expires next spring.

The ABC deal expired in June. It has been extended twice, and talks are now
said to be at a "delicate" stage and could go either way. Under the existing
deal, the network promised not to "repurpose" more than 25 percent of its prime
time programming schedule. In return, affiliates pony up roughly $45 million in
cash and some reallocation of prime time and Saturday-morning inventory to help
pay for the NFL. ABC parent The Walt Disney Co. wants more repurposing leeway for cable
channel ABC Family.

At Fox, affiliate-board chairman John Tupper said he's still in the
"information-gathering stage" on the issue, while the network has yet to offer a
specific renewal proposal. As the current deal stands, stations sell a number of
network spots locally (where they fetch more revenue in the aggregate) and
transfer the proceeds (about $14 million annually) to Fox. Tupper said
affiliates see the give-back as a "tremendous burden" because it's in addition
to the recently renewed inventory buy-back plan, which sends about $50 million
back to the network.