Strange bedfellows ABC and AT&T are blazing new paths in the California TV market of Monterey-Salinas.
ABC is transmitting its programming to Monterey viewers not through a TV station affiliate but through a 24-hour cable channel set up specifically by AT&T to make sure that local subscribers are not deprived of Regis Philbin, “Monday Night Football,” Drew Carey and Peter Jennings.
It’s the first time ABC has ever engineered such a deal with a cable operator, and it came about when the network’s longtime affiliate in Monterey, KNTV, announced five months ago that it would displace KRON in January 2002 as the NBC affiliate, covering the San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose market.
KNTV upended KRON by agreeing not only to walk away from the millions of dollars NBC usually pays for the use of its affiliate’s airtime but — even more radically — to reverse the process: KNTV and its three sister stations owned by Granite Broadcasting will pony up $362 million over a 10-year period to become NBC affiliates.
When ABC’s existing affiliation agreement with KNTV expired three weeks ago, the network declined to renew it through January ’02, causing a panic at AT&T because its 70,000 or so Monterey/Salinas subscribers would be fair game for DirecTV and Echostar, the two largest direct-broadcast-satellite distributors, who carry all of ABC’s network programs.
Sources said ABC and AT&T quickly struck a deal in which AT&T’s Monterey salespeople will sell all the local advertising time on the channel set up for ABC’s programming. The two companies will share the advertising revenue.