Does NBCUniversal Have Big Plans In Beantown?


ZGS Communications, the largest owner of Telemundo affiliates not owned by NBCUniversal, has agreed to sell a low-power TV station in Boston to an entity directly tied to the Comcast-owned broadcast company.

The deal has tongues wagging in the Back Bay, with speculation that this station could be the new home for NBC in New England’s largest market. 

In an asset purchase agreement dated August 31, which was filed with the FCC this week, ZGS has agreed to sell WTMU-LP in Boston, licensed for digital channel 46.

WTMU is a translator for NBCUniversal O&O WNEU-60, the Telemundo affiliate in Boston. WNEU is located in Merrimack, N.H., and WTMU has been used to bring a city-grade Telemundo signal to the metropolitan area.

As listed on the asset purchase agreement, WTMU is being acquired for $100,000 by “Station Venture Operations,” which lists NBCUniversal VP/Regulatory Affairs Margaret Tobey as the main contact.

What’s intriguing about the deal is that, concurrently, ZGS has entered into a local programming and marketing pact with a NBCUniversal LLC dubbed “WBTS Television” that cedes control of WTMU.

It is widely believed that WTMU will take the calls “WBTS,” and become an NBC O&O. This would end the NBC affiliation of WHDH-7, a Sunbeam Television station that has had the NBC affiliation since January 2, 1995.

Talk first surfaced of NBCUniversal acquiring a station in Boston that would serve as an NBC O&O in August 2015. WHDH’s NBC affiliation is set to expire at the end of 2016, and Sunbeam and NBCUniversal have had a somewhat rocky relationship over the last 13 months.

Should Sunbeam lose the NBC affiliation for WHDH, the company could repeat what it did in Miami on New Year’s Day 1989. At that time, WSVN-7 lost its NBC affiliation, and became a loosely affiliated FOX station with a heavy news brand. Today WSVN remains one of the market’s dominant news stations, giving WHDH management a possible plan for 2017 and beyond.