Fox, affils ready to tackle football

$4.4 bil NFL deal trickling down, friction expected

ORLANDO, Fla. — Fox’s financial expectations from affiliates over its $4.4 billion NFL deal could generate fireworks between the network and its stations as affiliate meetings begin today in Los Angeles.

Some Fox affiliate station groups did not react well to a letter the network sent to its affiliates that outlined contributions it expects from its stations.

“This (ABC) negotiation is not contentious, but watch the Fox meeting; that one could be contentious,” said one station group owner with both Fox and ABC affiliates.

The Fox letter outlined a plan under which affiliates would return 15 spots per week to the network, beginning July 1. The plan also requires stations to return money due from retransmission consent agreements expiring next year.

Also beginning July 1, Fox would give back to affiliates three spots that were removed from local inventory under the NFL agreement that expired in January. Money from these spots, sold locally, would go to the network except for a 15% agency commission and 8% local sales commission. In addition, Fox said it will increase the number of affiliates’ pre-game inventory to 13 spots from 11, but all the commissions would go to the network.

The complex proposal is essentially tied to an agreement reached earlier this year between Fox and its affiliates in which the Fox stations sold their stake in the Fox Children’s Network.

“First we sell them the Fox Kids Network and now they take the money back,” the station group executive said.

A Fox source said negotiations between the network and the Fox affiliate board will continue at the Fox affiliate meeting. The source added that the negotiations were proceeding constructively.