Affils may wrap pigskin package

The Fox affiliate board shot down the web’s latest NFL compensation proposal Wednesday, so the network has decided to negotiate directly with local station owners in an attempt to finally hammer out a deal to pay for its $4 billion pigskin package.

Fox has already sent station and station group owners the outlines of the compensation proposal, sources confirmed. But, it’s the same plan the affiliate board Wednesday voted against recommending.

“There were too many open issues,” affiliate board chairman Murray Green said in explaining why the board rejected Fox’s offer. “We’re not ready to recommend anything until they address some of these issues.”

Green declined to discuss any specific points of contention.

Insiders at the network level believe affiliates will be more accepting of the NFL compensation plan than the affiliate board. The web has already received positive response to the deal from several major station groups, sources said.

Fox and the board seemed on track to an agreement last week, having resolved the issue of program exclusivity. Money hasn’t been an issue, according to sources on both sides.

Another obstacle to an agreement was removed earlier this week when the affiliate board finally voted to recommend a plan to transfer ownership of the Fox Kids Network back to Fox. FKN topper Haim Saban told reporters Wednesday that affiliates will get $100 million over the next five years in exchange for giving up their stake in the kids’ network.

While the broad outlines of the kids deal were okayed earlier this year, Saban said the affiliates have now agreed to promote the new Fox Family Channel on their air. FKN will get 15 spots per week under the plan, Saban said, adding that it’s not yet clear whether the ads will be generic image ads or day and date spots selling tune-in for specific programs.

“This is really unprecedented,” Saban said. “It’s a win-win situation for both the stations and the network.”

Still, station owners must sign off on the FKN plan, and while ultimate approval is expected, the haggling over the NFL compensation could delay the process.

Fox execs have grown weary over the increasingly complicated nature of its affiliate board negotiations, industry insiders say. The FKN deal has taken nearly two years to complete, and talks about NFL compensation have been dragging on for six months.

A Fox spokesman declined comment.

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