The End of WHDH’s Relationship with NBC?

It looks like the breakup is finally happening.

The long-awaited split between NBC and WHDH is finally be happening.

Multiple outlets are reporting that a breakup between privately owned WHDH and NBC will be announced later today at afternoon staff meetings at WHDH and NECN.

From the Boston Herald:

WHDH owner Ed Ansin has set a 3 p.m. meeting today with the Channel 7 staff to inform them what hasn’t exactly been a secret – NBC will pull its affiliation from the station when its contract expires at the end of next year and move all NBC programming to a new channel called NBC Boston.

As the Herald reported last month, NBC will move from Channel 7 to a new station called NBC Boston – which will air on WNEU (Ch. 60) – and the powerhouse network is already assembling a news team that includes just-departed 7News weatherman Pete Bouchard.

A meeting will also take place at NECN at 1 p.m. during which Bouchard will be introduced. Bouchard is expected to work for NECN until the new station is launched. Also at that meeting, there will be a representative from NBC who will provide tell the staff about the plans to launch NBC Boston.

The breakup is not a surprise, but it appears Ansin is intent on fighting it out in court. Ansin told The Boston Globe that he is putting together a legal team to challenge the move on public interest grounds. Ansin has made the case that WHDH is worth more than what NBC wants to give him because of its broadcast signal strength, something that is somewhat irrelevant in 2015 when the majority of homes have cable and internet access.

Ansin and NBC, along with Comcast, have had a tense relationship for years. Ansin is one of the few remaining major market independent station owners in the United States. Ansin owns a Miami station and WLVI CW 56 in Boston through Sunbeam Television.

The way the split would work is like this:

NBC moves their network programing like Saturday Night Live, Sunday Night Football and The Voice from WHDH to a new channel currently occupied by the New Hampshire based WNEU on Channel 60. The new channel would be known simply as NBC Boston. A new news operation at NBC Boston would piggyback on the expansion of the news team at NECN. It is not clear what would happen to WHDH under this scenario. Ansin has indicated he wants to sell WLVI in what’s known as the FCC spectrum auction, a bidding system that is designed to reallocate scarce bandwidth in a crowded digital age.

Legal and regulatory challenges to the move are likely.