A station's 50th year on the air is typically marked by a giant sheet cake, a bit of bubbly and on-air retrospectives showing the news team—and its dubious choices in hairdos and suits— across the decades.
Yet none of that went down when WSVN Miami, a renegade station built in the image of its renegade owner, hit the big 5-0 recently. Ed Ansin, who owns parent Sunbeam Television, says he would rather look forward.
“You see other stations do their historical perspectives, but Ed said, ‘We’re about the future, not what we looked like in 1974,’” says Robert Leider, executive VP and general manager at WSVN. “A young audience wants to see us looking contemporary and vital. He said, just continue doing what we’re doing.”
Wrapping up a year that saw numerous stations change hands, WSVN is a picture of continuity. Ed and his father bought the station, then WCKT, in 1962. In 1983, the call letters were changed to WSVN. A year later, Leider came on board as national sales manager.
Perhaps WSVN’s most significant milestone came in 1989, when it ceased being an NBC affiliate to join a then fledgling network called Fox. Jon Hookstratten, Fox executive VP, network distribution, calls WSVN an “outstanding” affiliate. The station’s news output, he adds, coupled with Fox fare, “is the model for a successful broadcast station.”
Miami is an extraordinarily difficult market to program to; a top station must connect deeply with both the Englishand Spanish-speaking populations. Yet WSVN has thrived on high-energy productions, attractive and youthful anchors, and a relentless lineup of news. Its 11 hours of daily news, kicked off by a massive 5-10 a.m. block, may be the most of any station in the nation.
Ansin says WSVN did a threehour morning show back when such things were “unheard of” in the local TV business. “What we do works,” he says. “We have a good sense of the market.”
WSVN took in $95.6 million last year, ahead of runner-up WPLG’s $70.8 million, according to BIA/ Kelsey. DMA No. 16 features stations owned by Post-Newsweek, NBC and CBS, among others, but it’s Sunbeam, owner of three stations nationwide, that wins.
“Ed and I feel that the station with the most news presence still has a place in broadcasting,” Leider says.
Ansin, 76, is a rarity in many ways, including his willingness to stand up to imposing foes when he feels his stations’ interests are not taken to heart. He famously opposed NBC’s ill-fated decision to try Jay Leno in primetime in 2009 (Sunbeam owns NBC affiliate WHDH Boston) and also sued Nielsen that year, for what he felt was a violation of antitrust laws.
Since then, Ansin has largely stayed out of the public eye. “There was a lot to be feisty about during the recession,” he says.
Ansin calls buying WSVN the highlight of his career. He has no plans to sell, step down—or slow down.
“Ed’s hobby is television stations—it’s basically his calling,” Leider says. “Ed will go down with his boots on.”
E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @BCMikeMalone
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