NBC set to drop Boston affiliate, launch new Beantown O&O more focused on OTA business

Signaling the biggest shakeup in the No. 7 U.S. TV market in the last two decades, NBC will reportedly drop its Boston affiliate, WHDH-TV (channel 7), and launch a new owned-and-operated station starting in January 2017.

The news originated from a leaked internal memo, issued Thursday by Valari Staab, president of NBCUniversal Owned Television Studios. Staab said the new O&O (owned and operated station) "will be a broadcast channel available to over-the-air viewers like our other NBC and Telemundo stations." 

She added that NBC is "committed to expanding our over-the-air coverage of the market and is currently looking at a variety of options to accomplish that."

The new owned and operated station would require local pay-TV operators to negotiate new broadcast retransmission deals. And an emphasis on improved over-the-air broadcast capabilities might influence cord cutters.

In an interview with Variety, Ed Ansin, chief executive of WHDH-TV owner Sunbeam Television, said that NBCU executives informed him last year the company did not plan to renew its affiliate agreement with his station. 

Within days, he said, NBCU representatives offered him $200 million for WHDH broadcast facilities, a deal he turned down. Ansin said he believes the station's assets are worth around $450 million, particularly given the interest in broadcast-station air rights being used for wireless spectrum.

NBC already operates a Telemundo station in the region, WNEU-TV, which has facilities in Newton, Mass, and a transmitter in New Hampshire. Ansin said he believes NBC will try to use that transmitter for its new station, even though it reaches 121 percent fewer viewers. 

The Sunbeam executive added that he intends to push back on NBCU's move, noting that it might be in violation of edicts parent company Comcast agreed to back in 2011 when it purchased the conglomerate. "If they are not allowed to do what they want to do, they will have nowhere else to go in the market," he told Variety.

For more:
- read this Boston Globe story
- read this Variety story

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