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Comcast/NBC Moves Over-the-Air NBC Affiliation in Boston to New Hampshire

Phillip Dampier November 2, 2016 Comcast/Xfinity, Competition, Consumer News 4 Comments

whdhCord-cutting in Boston is getting more difficult if you are an NBC fan. Comcast, which owns NBC/Universal, has terminated its affiliation agreement with full-power Boston station WHDH and is moving NBC programming in Boston to a little-watched television station in New Hampshire currently affiliated with Telemundo.

Northeast Radio Watch reports major confusion in Boston over the network affiliation change that will relocate NBC’s programming for the most-viewed NBC affiliate in Massachusetts to a lower-powered station in another state.

The change takes place Jan. 1, 2017, and some Boston viewers are likely to have trouble getting a good over-the-air picture for NBC programming unless they subscribe to cable… which coincidentally is also provided primarily by Comcast.


Much of southeast Massachusetts will lose access to NBC shows, unless they subscribe to cable.

Sunbeam-owned WHDH-TV 7 has been Boston’s NBC affiliate since Jan. 2, 1995. For years, the relationship between Sunbeam and Comcast/NBCUniversal has been frosty because of station and affiliation disputes in other cities. On Dec. 15, 2015, Comcast informed WHDH management its NBC affiliation contract would not be renewed. Comcast then offered to buy what would certainly be a financially compromised WHDH for $200 million, prompting Sunbeam owner Ed Ansin to declare Comcast/NBC was “trying to steal our station.”

Comcast has decided on a suitable replacement to serve as Boston’s NBC affiliate – a small station 50 miles away in Merrimack, N.H., currently providing Spanish-speaking audiences with Telemundo programming.

WNEU-TV 34 runs an 80-kilowatt transmitter west of Manchester, N.H.,a pittance compared to the 1,000-kilowatt transmitter powering WHDH, located in suburban Boston.

“This has been NBC’s weak spot, and for all the talk about how Comcast will buy this or that other station, it’s going to war with the signals it has, not the signals it wants to have,” writes Scott Fybush, editor of Northeast Radio Watch. “That means WNEU, the Merrimack, N.H.-licensed signal that’s been carrying Telemundo, will be the only full-power home of NBC Boston, serving viewers in New Hampshire and (if they’re equipped with a decent antenna) parts of the Merrimack Valley.”

nbc_boston_logoEven Comcast recognizes the political controversy that is likely to erupt as a substantial portion of Boston’s cord-cutting over-the-air audience loses access to NBC unless they sign up for Comcast Cable or another pay television provider. So NBC has also arranged to buy low-power station WBTS-LD 46, which also currently airs Telemundo programming for the benefit of Boston residents within Route 128. WBTS does not come close to providing a good signal throughout Boston either, and Fybush notes over-the-air viewers in Worcester or on the South Shore are going to be out of luck.

“NBC acknowledges you probably won’t be seeing them over the air for now,” Fybush notes.

Comcast has also given its new NBC affiliate prime positioning on the Comcast lineup. NBC programming in Boston will appear on cable channel 10, with the HD feed on channel 810, bumping NECN-HD to channel 840. NBC has also reached private agreements with satellite providers to put NBC Boston of channel 10 as well.

The change means cord-cutters will be seriously disadvantaged in Boston, struggling to get a decent digital picture from a station never considered a primary Boston signal. For WHDH, it strands the station without any major network affiliation. In an effort to stay viable, WHDH intends to rebrand as a news-focused station that will air multiple local newscasts during the primetime hours of 7-11:30pm, unless another network comes along with an offer.

Currently there are 4 comments on this Article:

  1. Josh says:

    Oh that’s “adorable”. I can’t believe we’ve allowed all this nonsense. There’s no way in hell we should have deregulated so channels could carry tons of their own content, and there’s no way we should allow stuff like Comcast buying NBC…

  2. Jessica M says:

    This article is leaving out a lot of info. I’m pretty sure that NBC already purchased another signal with the call letters W BTS as well as generators that boosts their signal to cover the entire DMA. You should definitely check your facts on that.

    • I have checked the FCC applications database and there is no application to boost either power or other transmission facilities for either station. In fact, the only significant items in WBTS-LD’s FCC file this year is the sale of the station to senior Comcast executives operating under an LLC. I invite you to review this for yourself: http://licensing.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/pubacc/prod/app_list.pl?Facility_id=64996 Here is the FCC file for WNEU and there are no applications for facility improvements there either, and they’d have a lot of trouble getting them even if they wanted to because of the very crowded airwaves in the northeast, with a lot of adjacent stations to protect: http://licensing.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/pubacc/prod/app_list.pl?Facility_id=51864

      WBTS-LD is a low-power station in western Boston formerly known as WTMU, which currently rebroadcasts Telemundo programming from WNEU in New Hampshire on digital channel 46. In a week or two, that channel will re-map to channel 8, and be soft-launched at WBTS-LD 8/NBC Boston. People in Boston using a digital over the air tuner will need to perform a re-scan to pick up this channel change.

      WBTS only has an effective radiated power of 11kw, which is not very much. If Boston-area residents want to know what future reception will look like, they should check out the Telemundo outlets on channels 34 and 46. Those same transmitters will be used for NBC Boston going forward.

      Comcast itself admits those in southern and southeastern Boston suburbs and beyond in the southeastern part of the state will likely lose NBC over the air. Some might be able to pick up WJAR-Channel 10, the NBC station in Providence, R.I. as a replacement, especially if they have a reasonably good antenna.

      Here is the coverage map for WBTS-LD. Notice that for most, only medium quality reception with an indoor antenna is possible. That means a pixelating or frozen picture from time to time — highly annoying. Things get pretty bad signal wise to the south and southeast.
      WBTS-LD Coverage Map

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