The Holy War of Ed Ansin, Sunbeam Et al Vs. the National Broadcasting Company

The war of 1 man and 1 network has been going on since I been on this planet. Some of this war began on the southern tip of Interstate 95 and US 1 and some of this same war happened in my neck of the woods. This post is about the war between the owner of Channel 7 both in Boston and Miami and NBC.

In the spring of 1987, NBC bought WTVJ in Miami, that was the long time CBS affiliate. NBC would over the next year and a half would indirectly brand the station as an NBC owned station (i.e. “News 4 South Florida” or title the morning news as “News 4 Today”, etc.) despite running CBS programs. Speaking about CBS, they bought the Fox affiliate, because the Tiffany Network didn’t want to deal with Sunbeam ether.

In this time, it was perfect for Ansin because the Fox network only ran shows on weekends, which enabled him to launch the Channel 7 News, flash and trash newscasts which ran news about 7 or so hours a day – which for the late 80s standards was very loaded. And the way things happened, he got the Fox network.

In 1993, Sunbeam would buy WHDH at a premium for profit for the owners of New England Television. WHDH was a CBS affiliate for about 20 years, until 1994  major crack on the earth would rattle nearly 70 various TV stations in a time of a couple years. As part of that, WHDH would become an NBC affiliate, and NBC would have to deal with their enemies    in Florida once again.

In 1994, news that Group W (the old broadcast unit of the Westinghouse company) would ink a deal with CBS, only 2 out of the 5 stations were CBS affiliates (Pittsburg and San Francisco), the other two were NBC (WBZ and KYW) and the Baltimore station (WJZ) was an ABC affiliate. This deal alone caused one of the biggest affiliation realignment in the 1994 to 1996 period. And if effected Boston and Miami. And it effected NBC. Fox was about to buyback WFXT; by selling the Boston Herald back to local control so what happened to WHDH? Well Sunbeam must had a smile on their faces because they would reunite with NBC. The Boston switch occurred on New Years 1995.  The Big Switch of 1995 has its own post, because of its complexity.

For a number of years, NBC wanted to buy WHDH for years, rumors went as far back as around 2001.

In 2006 changes to US TV occurred, the CW and UPN networks would merge as The CW Chicago Tribune’s TV unit gave up WLVI to Sunbeam in a closed room deal. Despite anger in the news community of loosing another news operation; in my opinion WLVI was better off being bought then being a public embarrassment. Tribune’s new owner, Sam Zell was known to be very crass and even C-level management acted like college boys. Every media group typically owns like minded stations (the ol’ Citadel radio owning Class B or C stations; CBS owning Class A AM stations, etc) and Tribune owned the “superstation” business, WPIX, KTLA, KWGN, WGN, among many WB affiliates, and the other “Big 4” networks. At least for the original superstations after 2007, they had a very laid back approach to the news, and sometimes it looked so unprofessional, that one would never expect Tribune stations to stoop down. And that’s why I think WLVI was better off sold before becoming a laughing stock.

Other positive was that they added 56 back to the brand, I didn’t like how they had CW or “Boston’s WB” like the local programs were an extension to the network.

NBC’s anger with the management with Sunbeam was used towards trying to buy a station. The problem was there weren’t any to buy. Back in 2006 or even 2016.

NBC was favored to ether buy WLVI or WSBK out of CBS because of the UPN/WB merger, but CBS clutched TV38 and WLVI was given to Sunbeam. Reportedly, WHDH claimed that any breaking news (that they are well known for) would spill over to WLVI. In 2016, if any breaking news occurs, Jerry Springer, Steve Wilkos or the other shows never get cut off, but the 4th hour of Today (supposed to be live at 10:00 am) will likely be cutoff at the 11:00 timeslot that WHDH puts them on.

In 2009 when Jay Leno was creating a new variety show, Ed Ansin said “the move” to 10:00 would hurt the 11:00 ratings. As a result, the public relations was disastrous for NBC as they threatened to take the affiliation and move it to Channel 60, licensed in Merrimack (the legacy license goes back to a local indie station in the early 1990s) that’s been the Telemundo owned station. After some childish back and forth by NBC, Ed Ansin would not preempt Leno, but in a Boston Herald headline later that winter entitled Leno: He’s Killing Us!!! What Ansin had anticipated came true. Channel 7’s news ratings went down. (But at the same time, WHDH’s flashy format would eventually get trashy and dramatic, something that was around at WSVN for years, but never came to Boston.)  Such PR disaster would only get worse for NBC.

Yours truly had even wanted to put NBC into the Deathpool because 30 Rock would become a sinking ship if no one came to the rescue within a year.

(This is a fault of Jeff Zucker, who acted as a house flipper to cheapen the NBC product so much that NBC was laying off so many talent to crappify the product, refuse expenses by sell it at a “profit” for General Electric. Comcast was the lucky buyer and Comcast has invested in NBC which isn’t as crappy as back in ’09)

The war between Sunbeam and NBC has continued into 2016 as NBC has now confirmed they will not have an affiliation deal with Sunbeam and Sunbeam is now taking legal action against NBC. It’s only starting to get interesting.