For decades, South Florida TV viewers who have desired English-language local news in the 10pm hour have had one dominant choice: Sunbeam Television’s FOX-affiliated WSVN-7 in Miami.
The E.W. Scripps Co. hopes to soon slice away some of News 7‘s massive reach — and ad revenue — by building a news department at its recently acquired affiliate for The CW Network in Miami-Fort Lauderdale.
Come spring 2020, local newscasts will come to WSFL-39.
It’s a move that could impact Sunbeam, but in a much different way than what was rumored in 2018, when Sinclair Broadcast Group intended to merge with Tribune Co. Had the deal progressed, talk of FOX affiliation jumping to WSFL-39 was rampant across South Florida media circles.
When the Sinclair-Tribune Media deal was aborted by Tribune in August 2018, the chances of a FOX affiliation change dissipated, until the Ed Ansin-led Sunbeam inked a long-term affiliation renewal agreement with FOX.
For WSFL, newscasts at the ex-Tribune station will serve a dual purpose for Scripps. First, it gives it entry into a market where English-language TV viewing remains strong despite the heavy use of Spanish-language TV. Second, it will connect WSFL and South Florida to Scripps’ ABC-affiliated WFTS-28 in Tampa-St. Petersburg, NBC giant WPTV-5 (and Gray Television-owned WFLX-29, the FOX affiliated operated by Scripps via a shared services agreement) in West Palm Beach, WFTX-4 in Fort Myers-Naples, and FOX affiliate WTXL-27 in Tallahassee.
“Once launched, its newsroom will strengthen Scripps’ statewide political coverage in the key battleground state of Florida, including during the 2020 presidential election, and its meteorologists and severe weather teams will join Scripps’ other news teams in protecting Florida residents during hurricanes and major storms,” the company said.
Scripps Local Media President Brian Lawlor added, “Our commitment to launch news in Miami expands Scripps’ already impressive commitment as the largest news organization in Florida. Florida is a state we know well and we pride ourselves on the stories we tell daily that define the issues, lifestyle and people of Florida. Expanding into the Miami and Fort Lauderdale communities allows Scripps to elevate the public discourse around this region’s most important social, economic and community issues. Heading into 2020, we felt it was important to add another local source to serve as the voice of record for the South Florida community.”
Scripps plans to announce leadership for WSFL in the coming months.