HOLLYWOOD, FLA. — On Wednesday, the future of Sunbeam Television‘s top-rated WSVN-7 in Miami-Fort Lauderdale was put into question as 21st Century FOX announced it was acquiring seven stations from Sinclair Broadcast Group by way of Tribune Media — a deal designed to move Sinclair’s merger with Tribune closer to fruition.
Among the stations FOX is snagging is WSFL-39, the CW affiliate serving South Florida.
This immediately put into question the future of WSVN’s FOX affiliation. On Friday afternoon, Sunbeam’s owner finally spoke up — and a loss of network affiliation is a very real possibility.
In fact, it is all but a certainty — unless the Federal government steps in.
In a brief statement, Sunbeam owner and WSVN President Ed Ansin noted that “uncertainties remain” regarding WSFL’s sale to FOX.
He reiterated FOX’s Wednesday release stating that the deal is expected to close in the second half of 2018 and will be reviewed by regulators scrutinizing the $4.6 billion acquisition of Tribune by Sinclair.
For Ansin and Sunbeam, nothing will immediately impact WSVN. However, he warns, “Fox has not announced its plan for WSFL, but it has assured us it will in no event terminate its contract with WSVN prior to June 30, 2019.”
What does that mean come July 1, 2019 — just under 14 months from now?
“If WSVN ceases in 2019 or later to be a Fox affiliate, it will continue to be the news leader in South Florida, functioning as a news intensive independent similar to WHDH, its highly successful sister station in Boston,” Ansin says.
That’s what industry observes largely expect to see, with WSVN possibly taking over The CW affiliation — unless it ends up on a digital multicast signal tied to WSFL.
That latter scenario is being discussed among many Miami media observers, as the growth of multicast stations and channel-sharing agreements following the FCC’s Incentive Auction reduce the need for Miami-Fort Lauderdale TV viewers to undergo a third “great affiliation swap” in the last 30 years.
At 3am on Jan. 1, 1989, NBC’s affiliation with WSVN-7, the former WCKT-TV, moved to WTVJ, which was then on Channel 4. This shifted CBS from WTVJ to the former WCIX-6, and left WSVN as “an independent” — the station initially reported in 1988 when news of the affiliation swap was first made public.
On Sunday, Sept. 10, 1995, a second big network affiliation swap impacted South Florida TV viewers, as CBS programming shifted to Channel 4, creating CBS O&O WFOR-TV. In turn, WTVJ and its NBC programming took Channel 6.
WSVN wasn’t impacted then, and Ansin is confident it won’t be impacted come July 2019.
WSVN has been a top-rated station in Miami-Fort Lauderdale, thanks to its aggressive news coverage across multiple dayparts, since 1989. And, with co-owned WHDH-7 in Boston‘s loss of NBC affiliation at the start of 2018, the station is either first or second in the ratings in key time slots.