BOSTON – A bitter split between NBC and WHDHTV is expected to happen at the end of the year. This leaves many Boston cord-cutters unsure of whether they’ll get NBC in 2017.
It’s been widely reported that NBC plans to shift its affiliation from WHDHTV in Boston, to WNEU in Merrimack, New Hampshire. The change is anticipated to take place this December. As a result, WHDH owner Ed Ansin sued Comcast (owners of NBC) in March for breach of contract and antitrust violations. The judge ruled in Comcast’s favor, stating that WHDH could not demand contract renewal negotiations with NBC. The judge also stated that Ansin did not prove that Comcast engaged in unfair or deceptive practices.
NBC’s projected move to New Hampshire has caught the attention of some Boston politicians. Marty Walsh, Boston’s mayor, has stated that he’s concerned about the unclear future of NBC in the city. The office of Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, released a statement indicating that the Senator supports free, over-the-air local broadcasting. Both Walsh and Markey plan to continue to follow this situation.
What Does This Mean for Cord-Cutters?
Comcast’s announcement to cease its affiliation with WHDH has many Boston cord-cutters concerned. With a transmitter located in Newton, Massachusetts, WHDH reaches more than 7,126,000 people in Boston’s TV market. With its transmitter located in Goffstown, New Hampshire, WNEU reaches more than 3,215,000 people. NBC’s move to WNEU will leave a significant number of Boston cord-cutters without the Peacock Network’s programming.
Cord-cutters from Newton to Sandwich are outside the radius of WNEU’s coverage area. Some who choose to upgrade to a larger, more powerful TV antenna might be able to receive WNEU’s signal. The possibility of this depends upon many factors, including distance to WNEU’s transmitter and what buildings, trees, or other obstructions might be between the dish and the transmitter. The reality for many Boston cord-cutters is that they’ll be without over-the-air NBC programming beginning next year.
WHDH’s Turbulent History
WHDH is no strange to controversy. Shortly after the station signed on as channel 5 on November 26, 1957, it was investigated by the Federal Communications Commission amid allegation of impropriety in the granting of the station’s license. During the 15 years this struggle dragged on, the station never held a license for more than six months at a time. (During that era, most TV station licenses lasted for three years.) In 1972, WHDH signed off the air.
WNAC was the original occupant of Boston’s channel 7, and its longtime CBS station. When it ended operations, a new channel arose originally called WNEV, but later changed to WHDH. The new WHDH is not associated with the old station, other than sharing its call letters, but has had its own controversies. It originally continued the legacy of WNAC as Boston’s CBS station, but later took over the NBC affiliation. Bostonians, not all of them fans of change, still occasionally tune to the wrong channel.
This news might have some Boston cord-cutters wondering what’s going on with NBC? Many Bostonians with OTA TV are likely to lose NBC programming after the first of the new year. The bigger issue at stake might be the future of NBC itself. Some cord-cutters might be wondering if this pending move is another sign of the Peacock Network’s continuing decline. If so, this is rather sad news for NBC, which has been broadcasting since 1926.
The OTA Future of WHDH
Cord cutters might have something to look forward to in this controversy. And this proverbial “silver lining” might be Ed Ansin’s determination. He has assured Bostonians that the expected loss of the station’s NBC affiliation won’t affect the quality of WHDH programming. He further promised that WHDH and its popular 7News program will continue in 2017 and beyond. Only time will tell how this all will play out for everyone in the Boston media market who’s cut the cord.