Sunbeam Sues Comcast Over Boston NBC Affiliation

Sunbeam Television’s WHDH in Boston sued Comcast in federal court over Comcast’s plan to terminate its affiliation with the station.

The station is seeking an injunction and an order requiring Comcast to comply with its agreement with WHDH as well as an order from the FCC. WHDH said it will also seek damages.

Related: Sunbeam’s Ed Ansin, WHDH Contesting NBC’s O&O Plans in Boston

Comcast, which owns NBC, plans to use New England Cable News and WNEU in Merrimack, N.H to cover the market, according to Sunbeam.Sunbeam claims the station’s signal does not reach the 4 million people Boston-area markets who now receive WHDH’s broadcasts over the air.

Sunbeam charges that many residents would have to buy cable service from Comcast to continue receiving NBC programming.

Related: Sunbeam’s WHDH Boston Launching 7 p.m. Weeknight Newscast

“When Comcast, the largest cable company in the world, acquired NBC in 2011, there was widespread concern about the impact this unprecedented accumulation of power in the television industry would have on viewers and other market participants,” Sunbeam said.  “To address those concerns, Comcast promised its NBC affiliates (including WHDH) that it would negotiate affiliate extensions in good faith such that over the air access would be maintained, and cable interests would not influence those negotiations.  As part of the FCC’s approval of Comcast’s acquisition of NBC, the FCC adopted these same conditions in order to protect the public interest.”

WHDH said it believes Comcast has violated those conditions. It also says Comcast is violating Massachusetts law prohibiting unfair and deceptive business practices, as well as federal and state antitrust laws.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.