Comcast/NBCUniversal is clearing up any questions about the signal of its new NBC-owned station, WBTS, when it launches the first of the year.
Last week, Senator Ed Markey, who was later joined by Senator Elizabeth Warren, questioned whether NBC Boston would be able to reach as many viewers as soon-to-be former NBC affiliate WHDH when it launches on January 1, 2017. Markey gave Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts until today to respond with a plan.
Speaking on behalf of Roberts, David L. Cohen, senior evp of Comcast, told Markey in a letter obtained by TVSpy he had good news since they last spoke, “We have just entered into an agreement with another full-power Boston station (WFMP) to rebroadcast the NBC Boston signal on its available digital channel until we can acquire another full-power station in the market.” That signal will be up and running before the start of the new year.
Cohen says NBC Boston will now “deliver interference-free over-the-air service to approximately 275,000 more viewers in the Boston DMA than WHDH on January 1, 2017,” and says, “NBC Boston will deliver interference-free indoor coverage to at least 231,645 more viewers in the DMA than WHDH.”
The station also promises an “extensive consumer outreach and education program” to “ensure every viewer can access the new NBC Boston” when it launches.
NBC’s silence on the matter may have led to a lot of the speculation and worry from lawmakers. But Cohen explains, while NBC was in talks about buying another full power station, Comcast/NBCUniversal was just following orders to respect the “quiet period” mandated by the FCC because of the broadcast spectrum incentive auction which is expected to end during the first quarter of 2017.
“Because the incentive auction is taking longer to conclude than anticipated, with Stage 4 commencing on December 13, station owners have been precluded from negotiating transactions for the last 11 months,” says Cohen.
One argument against the launch of NBC Boston used by WHDH owner Ed Ansin was to question whether NBC Boston’s OTA signal would reach all viewers in the market. At the time, Senator Markey asked whether poor kids from Brockton would be able to watch the Patriots play on Sundays.
NBC will use low power station WTMU (now WBTS), WNEU and now WMFP (channel 60.5) to broadcast to viewers.