ABC, Affils gridlock

NFL up in air, but sked scores

ORLANDO, Fla. — ABC and its affiliates sang the praises of the fall lineup and insisted everything is in tune with Jamie Tarses — but NFL-contract talks hit a sour note, thanks to the question of exclusivity, particularly as concerns ABC’s plans to rerun its soap operas on cable systems in three markets.

Affiliates attending the annual shindig here said progress has been made in negotiations, whereby the stations would contribute about $30 million to help ABC cover its new NFL contract. A deal is expected in a few weeks at the earliest.

“I don’t believe it’s going to be a cloud over us,” Nick Trigony, president of Cox Broadcasting, said Wednesday. “The network and affiliates can’t afford to have it be unresolved.”

Smiles over sked

Despite that potential discord, ABC affiliates responded favorably to the network’s two days of presentations, and especially applauded the fall sked.

Affils were led through a 90-minute presentation of the schedule by ABC Entertainment president Tarses, whose job has been reported to be in jeopardy.

However, ABC denied that there was any question about Tarses’ job stability, and affiliates had only positive things to say about the performance of Tarses and her boss, ABC Entertainment chairman Stu Bloomberg, in assembling ABC’s program lineup.

“It’s the best I’ve seen from any network,” said Trigony, who singled out “The Secret Lives of Men,” “Cupid” and “The Hughleys” as possible hits.

Experimental soap

ABC network president Preston Padden said the cable test with the soap operas will begin July 1 on cable systems in Chicago, Houston and Charlotte, N.C. — markets that contain two ABC owned-and-operated stations and one affil that has participated in ABC experiments previously.

Rerunning network programming on any platform other than via ABC affiliates is controversial because all network affils are fighting hard to retain exclusivity on web programming.

“I don’t think the affiliate body of any of these networks can give up exclusivity,” Trigony said.

Padden, however, said he hasn’t heard affiliate complaining about ABC’s three market test.

Basic test

In the experiment, ABC will lease a channel on local cable systems and rerun soap operas during primetime and in the morning. The soaps will run on the cable system’s basic level of carriage, so all the systems’ subscribers will be able to watch them.

“We want to learn how much interest there is in repurposed programming,” said Padden.

The network also made several exec announcements Wednesday.

Jonathan Barzilay was promoted to senior VP and general manager of children’s programming, ABC Television Network. He was previously VP and general manager. Barzilay’s promotions comes one week after Geraldine Laybourne, president of ABC/Disney Cable Networks, left ABC to form her own company. In addition to her cable duties, Laybourne was also involved in creating “Disney’s One Saturday Morning,” ABC’s Saturday morning kids lineup.

ABC also said that its kids animated series “Science Court” will change its name to “Squigglevision” and expand its format to include math and vocabulary elements.