Jordan to CBS affils: Move on

Westinghouse Chairman Michael Jordan apologized to CBS affiliates gathered here for the web’s annual meeting for the timing of last week’s corporate shakeup, which led to the resignation of CBS TV and Cable CEO Peter Lund.

“We are very saddened by Peter Lund’s departure,” Jordan said. “I apologize for the timing. This should have been an unfettered celebration for CBS.”

Jordan went on to explain that he wanted to complete the restructuring and name Mel Karmazin CEO of the CBS Station group prior to the affiliates meeting rather than “wait three or four weeks and appear disingenuous.” He urged affiliates to move forward, saying, “Life goes on and we have a great story to tell.”

Despite rumors of a power struggle with Karmazin, the company’s largest individual shareholder, Jordan called him “a great business man,” who’s “always pushing to make things better. He pushes me … he pushes everybody.”

Overall, most affiliates were resigned to last week’s changes, and Howard Kennedy, chairman of the CBS affiliates board, addressed the issue early on in the meeting. “We’ll all miss Peter; we’re better off today because of him,” he said. “We have great confidence in our leadership. They are the team Peter Lund put in place.”

Aside from corporate issues, Jordan and CBS TV Network president Jim Warner also presented affiliates with a new set of guidelines regarding programming exclusivity — one of the more explosive issues as all the networks expand their cable properties. Lund had previously spearheaded the effort, and the guidelines were basically in line with what affiliates had expected to hear from CBS.

“This is not an issue that should divide CBS and the affiliate body,” Jordan said.

The proposal, which Jordan said would be subject to changes, would give affiliates a year of exclusivity in most areas of network programming, including newsmagazines. The only exception to that rule was on “highly perishable” programs such as talkshows and award shows, which could air on cable networks sooner. “The Late Show with David Letterman,” for instance, will have a 90-day exclusive window (triple the one-month exclusivity at NBC).

Events such as award shows will be exclusive to affiliates for five days. CBS News footage won’t be exclusive, but CBS agreed not to sell exclusive news gathered by affiliates without their permission. Titles of CBS shows will also be changed when they air on cable for four years or until they debut in syndication.

According to the guidelines, CBS may air spots and CBS talent may “occasionally” mention cable programming on the air as long as they are not specific about times and dates when shows will air. CBS has agreed not to do so in primetime during sweeps periods. Warner said CBS’ cable channels will also promote the network on air.

Overall, the policy is more affiliate-friendly than NBC’s, and it’s less of an issue because CBS’ cable holdings are not yet a significant competitive threat to the stations. NBC has been battling with its affiliates, which are angry at NBC’s aggressive promotion of MSNBC.

At the meeting, Warner and Jordan also urged affiliates to spend more time promoting the network, to clear the CBS Saturday morning lineup and to urge Nielsen to get rid of sweeps in favor of year-round measurement.

In terms of promotion, some affiliates said they will wait to see whether the CBS O&Os promote the network more or instead sell more time to squeeze out more station revenue. Jordan said CBS will look to improve the bottom line at stations, but mainly by reducing the costs of purchasing equipment.

The affiliates’ meeting concludes today with presentations from CBS News president Andrew Heyward and CBS Sports president Sean McManus.

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