NBCUniversal’s fancy new home in the Boston market is finally ready for its close up.
The broadcaster has just wrapped up construction on its $125 million complex on B Street in Needham where it is consolidating its four Boston-area stations under one roof: NBC10 Boston, Telemundo Boston, NECN, and NBC Sports Boston.
Viewers will begin noticing some big differences in the backdrops as live broadcasts switch over to the Needham building. The transition began with Telemundo Boston’s 5 p.m. broadcast in the new studio for the Spanish-language station on Wednesday, and will continue over the next week.
NBC Sports Boston is relocating from Burlington. The other three stations are moving from crowded digs in the Wells Avenue office park in Newton, about a mile away. They’ve shared the space ever since the parent company launched NBC10 three years ago as a new station after not renewing its affiliation agreement with WHDH-TV.
Executives at NBC, a division of cable giant Comcast Corp., said the new complex will be the largest broadcast newsroom in the Boston market, if not New England. The 160,000-square-foot building is roughly the size of three football fields and will accommodate nearly 400 staffers. Just the interior garage, at 50,000 square feet, is larger than the old offices in Newton and Burlington combined.
“No one else in the market will have this kind of scale,” said Mike St. Peter, general manager of NBC10, NECN, and Telemundo Boston.
The building looks nothing like the General Dynamics operation that was there before NBCUniversal bought it in 2017. The structure was stripped to steel and concrete, and architects from Gensler worked with employees from all four stations to design the high-tech interior.
The flow of the building is aimed at fostering more collaboration among all four stations, while maintaining their distinct identities. Each station has its own production studio, and NBC Sports has two. All are lined with LED screens that, with a flick of a switch, can change the look of a broadcast. A sixth studio is set aside for future uses, such as a town hall discussion or political debate.
St. Peter said the local NBC team looked at a number of locations, in Boston and in the suburbs, before settling on the B Street property. (The town of Needham sweetened the deal with a property tax break worth about $2 million over 10 years.)
The accessibility to highways, for NBC’s various news crews, proved to be a deciding factor.
“Boston seems landlocked for our . . . vehicles and responding to breaking news,” St. Peter said. “Obviously, we’re right on [Route] 128. You can go into Boston several different ways. We can go up, down, and west easily from here.”
In April, St. Peter hands over general manager duties to Chris Wayland, currently general manager at NBC Sports and senior vice president at the other three.
It’s unusual for one company to own two general-interest news stations in the same market. Wayland said NBC10, with its focus on the Boston area, and NECN, a cable news station with a broader focus on New England, will continue to maintain separate identities while sharing staff and news stories.
“There will be tangible differences as we move forward,” Wayland said. “NBC10 is going to look more like a traditional broadcast, with modern technology. Our goal with NECN is to develop something that would be more suitable for social and digital [media] first, and broadcast second.”