Eye, affils foster future

NFL rev agreement also on table at annual meeting

LAS VEGAS — CBS and its affiliates still haven’t reached a template for how to deal with a host of new-media issues — but they’re getting closer.

That’s the word from Eye affil board chair and Freedom Broadcasting prexy Doreen Wade, who says the board hopes to present a proposal to affils “within a couple of weeks.” Proposal would be for a broad partnership between the Eye and its affils that also would tackle some thorny issues related to the net-affil agreement on NFL revenues.

“It’s all-encompassing,” Wade told Daily Variety shortly after addressing the Eye affil body on the opening day of the net’s annual affiliate meeting here. Earlier, Wade told her fellow station reps that while CBS and its affils “are aligned on many fronts, we still have to figure out” the details of future partnerships in the new-media sector.

The Eye and stations also are looking to extend their current agreement on the NFL, under which affils help shoulder some of the net’s massive rights fees in exchange for some measure of broadcast exclusivity. Pact, dubbed the NFL Value Exchange, expired at the end of the season, making the need for a new one somewhat pressing.

As for broadband, Fox and its affils recently worked out a template that allows the net to put a number of its shows on a broad range of digital platforms, from video-on-demand to MySpace to iTunes. NBC and its stations also recently formed the National Broadband Co., a joint venture designed to yield profits from video content generated by NBC Universal companies and NBC affils.

Those deals offer some idea of how CBS and its affils may begin to approach an agreement, though Wade was quick to note that “every deal between affiliates and networks is different.”

CBS affiliate relations prexy Peter Schruth didn’t directly address the digital questions during his brief remarks to station reps, but he alluded to the “opportunities” and “obstacles” new media present to stations and networks. And CBS Corp. prexy-CEO Leslie Moonves kept up his recent refrain about the relative importance of new-media ventures vs. creating successful series and content.

“Wireless is useless if you’re hitless,” he said in a subtle jab at fourth-place NBC, which devoted a large chunk of its May upfront pitch to a new-media primer.

Affil confab, held at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, was the first to take place since the CBS-Viacom split became official in January. Mood of independence was evident in remarks by Eye execs.

“Free at last, free at last. Lordy, lordy, free at last!” Schruth quipped.

Moonves, who still puts in an appearance at the meeting despite his elevated role, also took note of the Eye’s new role at the center of CBS Corp., relating to affils something CBS News anchor Charles Osgood told him earlier this year.

“He said to me, ‘It’s good that everything is now part of CBS, and CBS is part of nothing else,’ ” Moonves said.

Eye supremo also paused briefly to note this week’s deaths of two CBS News staffers in Iraq.

Day’s formal proceedings wrapped with CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler delivering an abbreviated version of her upfront pitch, showing off the Eye’s new fall skeins and making note of the fact that CBS now gives its stations the No. 1 lead-in to late local newscasts in both viewers and demos.

“We’ve got the stability and the success,” she said.

Eye affil meeting wraps Thursday with a lunch featuring the net’s newest superstar: Katie Couric. New CBS News and Sports prexy Sean McManus also will make his first appearance since his elevation to head of both divisions.

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