Is there such a thing as too much local TV news? Bostonians are finding out this year after the very public divorce between WHDH-TV (Channel 7) owner Ed Ansin and NBC, which may have left viewers with more local news — 11.5 hours more each weekday — than anyone could possibly watch.
Ansin’s refusal to leave the broadcasting business, combined with the network’s launch of its own local station, NBC Boston, crammed a sixth local news outlet into the Boston TV market and spurred a massive poaching of on-air talent. Pop quiz: Where did longtime WFXT (Fox 25) anchor Maria Stephanos and Channel 7 meteorologist Pete Bouchard land? Answer: Stephanos went to WCVB (Channel 5) and Bouchard to the new NBC Boston.
It all started when NBC, owned by cable giant Comcast Corp., decided not to renew its affiliation with Channel 7 after 22 years. Instead, the network launched its own station, complete with anchors and reporters, satellite trucks, and a helicopter.
Most people would have seen this as a sign to get out of the TV business. Not Ansin. At 81, he is defending his turf and set up Channel 7 as an independent station focused on local news. Only time will tell how wedded Bostonians are to Channel 7 or, for that matter, TV personalities in general. But don’t feel too bad for Ansin. He may have lost his network affiliation, but he reaped a cool $162 million recently in a Federal Communications Commission auction for the signal of his other local station, WLVI.