About a third of ABC stations indicated they may be reluctant to air the Steven Bochco Prods. drama “NYPD Blue” in its present form, according to a show of hands at the network’s business affiliate session Thursday.
In addition, Capital Cities/ABC president/CEO Daniel Burke reiterated that his plan is to retire when he turns 65 next February, though no indication was made regarding a successor.
With “NYPD Blue,” the good news, according to a press briefing rehashing the closed affiliate session, is a general consensus about the high quality of the series (which features language and depictions of sex more explicit than most prime time fare) and that two-thirds said they would support it. A number of other stations seemed to feel they could clear the show with minor revisions.
Burke said the network regarded the show as a work in progress and that affiliate reaction would be taken into account in deciding whether changes would be made. He added that the series has “great merit” but acknowledged that it’s “not for everyone.”
How that will play with Bochco, who has wrestled with the network regarding content and given no indication that he views the show as a “work in progress,” remains to be seen. Bochco couldn’t be reached late Thursday, but he has said he feels the show is no worse than anything a child could see unaccompanied in any movie theater.
ABC plans to air a viewer-discretion label, and officials note that over 90% of the web’s audience is age 18 and older after 10 p.m., when the show is scheduled.
Asked whether he would indeed retire next winter — making his ownership of a minor league baseball team more of a full-time job — Burke noted that chairman Thomas Murphy turned the CEO title over to him when he reached age 65 and it is “my intention to follow the same pattern.”
Burke didn’t discuss a replacement but promised there would be continuity, saying the network had been “making judicious and aggressive moves” to prepare for his retirement and that affils would be pleased with the results.
Robert Iger, named president of the ABC TV Network Group in January, is perhaps the highest-profile internal candidate at this point.
Any change, however, would probably need the backing of investor Warren Buffett, who owns nearly 20% of CapCities/ABC stock (he put up $ 500 million, plus that equity, to make the network acquisition possible in 1986) and has lent his voting power to Murphy and Burke for as long as they’ve run the company.
Go for the gold
In other areas, some stations urged ABC to make an aggressive pitch for the ‘ 96 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, but ABC Sports chief Dennis Swanson held fast to the line that the network won’t make a deal that isn’t financially sound.
A few stations inquired about affiliates sharing in the bid, but Swanson said that would only up the ante.
He added that unlike “Monday Night Football,” benefits from the two-week Olympics are short-lived, pointing out that NBC lost $ 100 million on the Barcelona Games, then proceeded to slide into third place in the ratings.
Negotiations are in July, and ABC will leverage its ownership of cable service ESPN in the bidding.
John Garwood, general manager of WPLG-TV in Miami, has been elected the new affiliates board chairman, with Cox Broadcasting exec VP Andrew S. Fisher as vice chairman; Deborah McDermott and Carlos S. Fernandez, general managers of the affils in Nashville and Columbia, Mo., respectively, as secretary and treasurer; and past-chairman Peter Desnoes of Burnham Broadcasting.
Other board members are general managerss Patrick Scott (Seattle), Jim Coppersmith (Boston), John D. Sawhill (D.C.), Larry J. Chase (Nampa, Idaho), Ray Alexander (Wesloco, Texas), and Thomas Griesdorn (Detroit); as well as Edward T. Reilly, president of McGraw-Hill Broadcasting.