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Fox making headway on new affiliation deals

April 13, 2011 |  9:00 am

News Corp.'s Fox is making headway on its aggressive plan to have its affiliates pay more money to be part of the network.

Earlier this year, the network told its affiliates that it wanted a big cut of the money they got from cable operators in so-called retransmission consent fees. According to people familiar with the terms, stations in the top 125 markets are being asked to pay 25 cents per subscriber per month, initially, with the amount to rise to 50 cents over four years. Smaller-market stations would see their fees start at 15 cents per subscriber per month and hit 25 cents in four years.

Most affiliates have signed a letter of intent agreeing to the majority of the terms, according to a member of the Fox affiliate board of directors. Fox has threatened to replace any affiliates that don't go along with its terms.

On Tuesday, Fox and its affiliates met for several hours during the National Assn. of Broadcasters meeting in Las Vegas. Though several broadcasters were not shy about voicing their concerns about the new deal, representatives from both sides issued statements after the session praising each other.

“Meeting with our local affiliates once again reaffirmed just how valuable our partnership is to Fox and to each of their local communities,” said Mike Hopkins, Fox's head of affiliate relations.

“We appreciate the opportunity that Fox gave us to voice our questions and concerns today, and we’re grateful for their ongoing dedication to quality,” said Brian Brady, chairman of the Fox affiliate board and president and chief executive of Northwest Broadcasting.

Brady's remarks stand in sharp contrast to a letter he sent to affiliates just over two months ago. Fox, Brady wrote, appears to have "no regard for the value your station brings to the network. ... They are prepared to destroy someone's business to make their point."

-- Joe Flint