Station operators emphasize importance of gathering

LAS VEGAS — Keeping the lines of communication open with its affils could pay off bigtime for CBS.

“We have, over the years, avoided many of the problems our competitors have encountered by not having the open dialogue,” CBS Television affil relations prexy Peter Schruth told Variety.

More than 85% of Eye affils were represented at the May 29-30 Bellagio Hotel confab, which was up from last year and about the same as two years ago.

CBS topper Leslie Moonves and Schruth both indicated they’re more than comfortable being the lone network investing in an affil meeting.

“We think communication is the best way to solve any problem,” Moonves said. “I can’t imagine doing this any other way.”

Schruth said the meetings afford CBS the opportunity to help get local broadcasters behind the new programming as well as to hear from stations their concerns about the relationship.

“We want to hear everything,” he said.

“Everything” can mean an ear full because affil meetings traditionally come with some level of contention.

While Freedom Broadcasting’s Alan Bell pointed out “there’s not a lot of rancor here,” Eye’s newest question mark is the fate of “The Early Show.”

Continuing concerns include repurposing, Eye programming that can provide ratings boosts to the important local 11 p.m. newscasts, as well as the compensation issue.

“In our company there’s a recognition that these people (affils) are top broadcasters, and we can learn from them. All broadcasting, after all, is local,” Schruth said.

Across the board, station operators — many of whom run stations affiliated with Eye competitors — emphasized the importance of the meetings and noted that those two simple days can serve to set CBS apart from other webs.

“Each relationship with each network is different,” said Benedek Broadcasting’s Stephen Benedek, who is selling his stations to Gray to form the group with the most CBS affils in the country.

“Without disparaging any other network, I will hand it to CBS for constructing the dialogue. It makes us feel better about negotiating with them. Face time like this is important.”

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