WMGM Losing NBC Affiliation in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia TV market will have one fewer NBC affiliate when WMGM, licensed to Wildwood, New Jersey, loses its affiliation at the end of 2014. Comcast/NBC owns WCAU in Philadelphia, which has a Jersey Shore bureau and a reporter dedicated to South Jersey.

Last fall, LocusPoint Networks acquired WMGM, known as “NBC 40,” from Access. 1, which owns 13 radio stations. The station has been an NBC affiliate for 48 years, according to Ron Smith, former general manager. An NBC rep said WMGM’s affiliation agreement expired at the end of 2012 but the station was given a two-year extension that runs through 2014.

Ravi Potharlanka and Bill deKay are cofounders of LocusPoint. The two have been acquiring smaller stations in larger markets, such as WDVB in the New York DMA, in what is presumed to be spectrum stockpiling. LocusPoint is owned by Blackstone Group and defines itself as “an early stage wireless communications company” on its website.

Neither Potharlanka nor deKay responded to emails seeking comment.

An NBC spokesperson did not comment.

Having two NBC affiliates in a major market is rare, though the situation also exists in Washington, where NBC owns WRC while Nexstar's WHAG too is affiliated with the network.

Ron Smith addressed WMGM’s pending affiliation loss in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

He wrote:

“The decision not to renew WMGM’s affiliation agreement is anticompetitive and raises serious questions about Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable and their concern for localism, the Comcast cable customers in Southern New Jersey and the Comcast customers everywhere.”

Smith says WMGM had a staff of 60 when he retired as GM last year. The station will have trouble surviving, he believes, without NBC programming. “You hate to see a station that’s been so vital and been a lifeline to the community disappear,” he told B&C.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the L.A. Times and New York magazine.