Today, NBC confirmed the months long rumors that they would part with WHDH, Boston’s Channel 7 despite a decades long complicated relationship with the owner Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam Television Corp. (The relationship is so complicated, there will be 3 different posts; this one about the local; the other just on Sunbeam/NBC and NBC’s other victims.) The relationship is expected to end by this calendar year and by January 1st, NBC will be on another TV station. Both newspapers as well as competing stations had reports on Thursday. If the local mass media is reporting this; then this really may develop in a once in a lifetime media biz drama.
The question is where will they go?
Boston is a very saturated market with 2 duopolies with a bunch of UHF stations outside the city; and for Sunbeam to find a new network will be difficult. Rumors are spreading that The CW, partly owned by CBS may move it over to WSBK, Channel 38 by next year. If NBC and The CW moves, Channel 7 and 56 would be almost worthless if you consider 7 News to be valuable.
Why are you reading these stories since September? NBC for some perverted reason has the least amount of tolerance for stations that preempt network programming in significant markets. Ed Ansin has loved to press the buttons the network; to the point where NBC would buy out the competition.
Channel 7 has been owned by Sunbeam since 1993. Channel 7 has been “cursed” by a horribly run company that it’s FCC saga took 2 decades to get the punishment that some felt they deserved. The station is known jokingly of the largest alumni second to UMass Boston, because the turnover is just as bad as a special education school – averaging a 2 year shelf life working for Channel 7 during its 3 different owners. (However I like to believe that the largest alumni is in some cases fact over a hahaha joke. You really had to be one step ahead or get fired and have you whole career ending with a “curse”.) An inside joke to the station (written by Howie Carr) was the station was built on top of an Indian reservation, and the jokes surrounding Indian chiefs.
The former owner, David Mugar, who really p—-d money down the drain like it was no ones business; was lucky to sell Channel 7 at a profit. In April of that year, he inked a deal with Sunbeam to buy the station. Despite the haterade by locals because most likely 7 News would make its way north; the two owners both believed running a station that best worked for their market; and be charitable and contribute to the community. (That’s not a lie, Channel 7 to this day still does a lot of community outreach. Sadly all the moonbats around here bash WHDH because the news format, and soley the news format.)
The war between Ed Ansin and Sunbeam and NBC goes back many years. These flames have never dyed down, and the events that transpired shows yet another spark in the smoldering flames. Or just a change in a relationship status.
Noise last year of NBC leaving WHDH came back as rumors, initial claims was NBC was going all digital or converting New England Cable News (we call it NECN, ether as initials or it’s acronym) as an NBC O&O affiliate. I think the “experts” took it too literally. NECN was owned by Comcast fully since 2009; as part of the consolidation of Comcast and NBC Universal (like E!, G4 – the old Tech TV, the Comcast Sports Networks or RSNs) would be transferred over to the NBCU division. NECN would become a property under the Owned and Operated, despite being just a cable news channel covering the entire 6 states of our region.
NECN went through a major overhaul in 2015, the network was re branded in all lowercase letters, using blue colored graphics, and had a set design similar to MSNBC. Also NECN was investing in lot of money to do multiple productions live, and redid their engineering to broadcast when that time would come. NECN also started a Spanish speaking newscast for that Telemundo affiliate in my neck of the woods, despite a large Latino population, there isn’t a strong news market. (and when I mean Latino, I’m talking about the vast majority of Lawrence residents who aren’t even measured because of their illegal status as citizens.)
On top of that, reports that WHDH’s now ex chief meteorologist has joined “NBC Boston” and unconfirmed reports that market favorite Maria Stephanos (who broke down on her last day at WFXT/Fox 25 as if someone destroyed her home) would join the new venture. More on Maria someday soon.
The now confirmed news that NBC is leaving WHDH is very interesting to say the least. The Boston media market isn’t what it once was, there are too many Spanish speaking stations, and not enough UHF stations to take to get to the Greater Boston audience. Meanwhile the FCC has been auctioning off TV signals to use for 4G communications, and even though there is a rise of cord-cutters or cord-nevers, Boston is one of these odd-ball markets where you don’t have 20 commercial TV stations in a single market, whether its in the metro or not.
Would Fox break their 5 year deal with Cox to give the Fox affiliation to WHDH? If the wrecking ball in Dedham doesn’t stop, and the continued insults to the Fox brand like that Uno shaped logo and stripping things like the “Fox searchlights” in the set, then maybe. But Cox probably wouldn’t sell to NBC – because it’s NBC’s goal to own a station just like how Cox wants another KTVU.
I for one am enjoying this because I’d like seeing an 80something old man, virtually owning a single station challenging the network. Mostly all US TV stations are owned by corporations or investment banks; and Ed Ansin, or David Mugar prior to or the family up at WCAX in Vermont are a rare exception. It was normal for 1987/88 standards to see someone play ball, but not as ripe for 2016. Except for this case. I feel like I am witnessing something that will never happen in my life seeing mass media/telecommunications showdowns in the history of the medium. This is why I’m in favor of Sunbeam even though I think 7 News has hit its prime. I’m a fan of the company for its corporate values only.