Comcast’s NBC Boston station finds signal fix, but Sen. Markey still wants more

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NBC Boston will offer free over-the-air service to about 275,000 more viewers than former NBC affiliate WHDH did, according to Comcast EVP David Cohen.

Comcast’s soon-to-be-launched NBC broadcast station in Boston will have more help boosting its signal within the market.

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., last week called out Comcast over concerns that the new station, which is due to launch Jan. 1, 2017, won’t have the same reach as WHDH, the Boston station with which NBC canceled its affiliate agreement.

According to a letter obtained by TVSpy, Comcast has a plan in place to address those concerns.

“We have just entered into an agreement with another full-power Boston station (WFMP) to rebroadcast the NBC Boston signal on its available digital channel until we can acquire another full-power station in the market,” said David Cohen, senior EVP of Comcast, in the letter.

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Cohen said NBC Boston will offer free over-the-air service to about 275,000 more viewers and interference-free indoor coverage to at least 231,645 more viewers in the Boston DMA than WHDH.

“I appreciate Comcast-NBCUniversal taking additional steps at my urging to temporarily expand the reach of its signal to cover most residents in Massachusetts and its stated intention to find a permanent solution to ensure full coverage of the market as soon as possible,” Markey responded. “I will continue to urge Comcast-NBCUniversal to ensure that all residents throughout the region can enjoy the same quality and reliability of free, over-the-air NBC content as soon as possible.”

Markey’s coverage concerns stand in contrast to comments made by Comcast after it announced it would take full ownership of the Boston NBC station. According to a leaked internal memo from January 2016, Valari Staab, president of NBCUniversal Owned Television Studios, said the new station is “committed to expanding our over-the-air coverage of the market and is currently looking at a variety of options to accomplish that."

Comcast did try to acquire WHDH’s facilities in order to help with that coverage but Ed Ansin, chief executive of WHDH-TV owner Sunbeam Television, said that shortly after NBCU executives informed him the affiliate agreement with his station would not be renewed, he declined NBCU’s $200 million for WHDH’s broadcast facilities.

As for WHDH, Ansin said the station will continue to serve the Boston DMA as an independent broadcaster.

“We’ve developed a lot of new ideas. New thoughts. New things we want to do. We find it exciting, we think our viewers will as well,” said Ansin, according to a WHDH report.