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Nbc Affiliates: Strong Series, Fewer Short Ads

June 12, 1986|MORGAN GENDEL | Times Staff Writer

KAANAPALI, Hawaii — Sun and surf have generally been the first order of business here during NBC's annual gathering of its affiliate station managers.

But the affiliates have voiced some serious concerns: They want more local news time during the network's 1988 Olympics coverage; they're less than confident about the 10 p.m. series on the fall lineup, and they don't want too many 15-second commercials cluttering their airwaves.

Those concerns indicate the true nature of what one station owner called the "healthy adversary relationship" between NBC and the 207 independently owned stations that broadcast the network's shows.

Since stations make much of their money from their local news, anything that threatens those programs is a source of friction.

NBC's 10 p.m. series this fall, which lead in to the local news at 11 p.m., could be just such a threat, the affiliates believe. Of specific concern are the fall lineup's Tuesday-through-Friday offerings: the news magazine "1986"; "St. Elsewhere," never a strong ratings-grabber and now entering its fifth season; "Hill Street Blues," which some see as weakening with age, and the new and untried "L.A. Law" in the Friday slot previously held by the high-rated "Miami Vice."

"If 'Hill Street Blues' runs out of gas--which we don't anticipate--but if it did, a lot of shows can be moved to 10 p.m.," network division president Pier Mapes countered.

"Crime Story," the new cop show from "Miami Vice" executive producer Michael Mann, and "Matlock," starring Andy Griffith as an attorney, are two such candidates, he said.

"It's high on our priority list to protect our affiliates' late news," Mapes said.

Strong shows at 10 p.m. are "mutually beneficial," noted James Lynagh, chairman of the NBC affiliates' board of directors. Just as those shows bring people to the local news, so do viewers of the NBC affiliates' news tend to stick around for "The Tonight Show," he said. The following morning, the dial would already be set to the "Today" show, as well.

Another problem area is the network's plan to bump local news until midnight during its Summer Olympics coverage, which will run for five hours nightly commencing Sept. 15, 1988, from Seoul, Korea.

"If they were going to end at 11:30, that would be one thing," Lynagh said. "But since they're not, we would like to have three opportunities for (local) exposure sometime between that 7 p.m. or 7:30 time period and midnight."

The network, however, plans to offer only two five-minute digests during the five hours, and only one of those would carry exclusively local commercials.

That issue is unresolved, as is the question of how much financial compensation the affiliated stations will receive from the network for airing the Olympics.

The final concern expressed during the affiliates' 30-minute closed-door session with network executives Tuesday was the 15-second commercials. Broadcasters believe that seeing too many commercials is a turn-off to viewers--but the networks can make more money on two 15-second spots than they do on one 30-second ad.

Mapes promised that only two 15-second commercials would run during any one cluster of spots--a stricter policy, he said, than ABC's.

Despite these concerns, it's not exactly trouble in paradise: The affiliates presented soon-to-depart NBC Chairman Grant Tinker with a gift--a sculpture of the much-sought-after viewer--and read a poem they composed praising his work during his tenure with the network. They also heaped praise upon Mapes for choosing Maui as the convention site.

OTHER NEWS: David Letterman will co-host the Emmy Awards telecast on NBC Sept. 21 and will also appear in four specials next season in the "Saturday Night Live" time period.

The new Family Programs unit of NBC Entertainment, formed less than a year ago, has secured the production talent of Stephen J. Cannell, Shelley Duvall and Jim Henson, among others, to develop family-oriented specials for NBC.

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