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Hoping to develop a line of communication separate from the affiliate board, Viacom prexy and CEO Mel Karmazin, CBS Television prexy Leslie Moonves and CBS affil relations prexy Peter Schruth met privately with about a dozen station group operators to discuss matters of concern at the affiliates’ annual confab Thursday in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, continuing his bullish stance on the ad market, Karmazin later in the day told the confab that Viacom’s TV outlets will fare “extremely well” in the upfront.

On Wednesday, CBS affiliates voted to maintain their current affiliate advisory board, despite pressure from the net to revamp its membership.

The affiliate board is comprised primarily of individual station managers, many with different priorities than larger group owners.

“The affiliate board consists of a group of people who are worried about 2001 or 2002. Group owners tend to worry about longer-range concerns,” said Alan Bell, president of Freedom Broadcasting, which owns CBS and ABC affiliate stations.

Bell described the closed-door conversation between CBS and group affils as “very candid and productive” and said the two groups vowed to continue to communicate about key issues. Among affils’ top concerns are preemptions, repurposing of network material, digital must-carry, as well as the 35% station ownership cap.

The confab marked the first time CBS execs have met with the group owners since March when the Network Affiliates Station Alliance, which represents station affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, filed a petition with the FCC over alleged abuses of power by the major nets.

‘Early’ gains

In his address to affiliates, CBS News prexy Andrew Heyward boasted about gains “The Early Show” made this season. ” ‘Survivor’ helped bring a new and younger audience to CBS in the morning. ‘The Early Show’ has turned many of those samplers into new and very desirable viewers — not just on ‘Survivor’ Fridays but throughout the week,” said Heyward, who pointed to the fact that the morning show was up 17% in women 25-54 and 22% in women 18-49 this season.

While some affils expressed impatience with the ayemcast’s slow growth, others were encouraged by its improvement over the past year.

“They are working hard in an area where things change slowly,” said Bell. “It would be wonderful for us if it moved faster. But they’re giving it every chance they can.”