MIAMI — At 3am on Jan. 1, 1989, WSVN-7 in Miami became an “independent” television station, dropping its NBC affiliation and becoming South Florida’s News Station — and home for the fledgling FOX network.
It marked a new beginning for Sunbeam Television Corp., which purchased what was formerly WCKT at the end of 1962 from a partnership between the owners of Miami’s then-two English-language daily newspapers: Cox Enterprises and Knight-Ridder.
In 1993, Sunbeam — led since 1971 by Ed Ansin — added WHDH-7 in Boston as a second property, and in late 2006 created a duopoly with The CW Network’s WLVI-56.
Today, Ansin is age 83, and opened up to the Boston Globe about his passion for broadcast TV — and unwillingness to slow down and retire.
Ansin, much like radio station owner Saul Levine of Los Angeles-based Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters, are anomalies in a world where big, publicly traded companies are driving media into the 20s. With NEXT GEN TV and the costs associated with upgrading equipment for the ATSC 3.0 digital broadcast standard’s eventual transition, some companies such as Cordillera Communications cashed out.
Ansin is “still standing,” the Globe notes.
The newspaper, in particular, points to WHDH’s transition away from NBC three years ago — an act that mirrored WSVN’s Peacock parting in 1989.
While WHDH isn’t No. 1, “it is far from bouncing around in last place,” the newspaper reports. That’s with local newscasts starting at 9pm weeknights, following the syndicated game show Family Feud.
In last place: The NBCUniversal O&O launched in Boston that took WHDH’s NBC affiliation away, WBTS-10.
Speaking to Globe columnist Shirley Leung, Ansin admits, “Most people didn’t think we could make this work. I thought we could make this work. It has worked. We’ve had a very successful station.”
That said, Ansin is seeking an affiliation for WHDH. It’s just not one you’d normally think of.
“My attitude has always been you have a first-class news operation, chances are somebody is going to want to affiliate with you, whether it’s Fox, Apple, or Amazon some day,” he told Leung.
While Apple or Amazon may be folly, Ansin’s desire to steal the Fox affiliation from Cox Media Group‘s WFXT-25 in Boston, fully pairing WHDH with WSVN in Miami.
Why? He loves FOX’s sports deals, and believes its lineup is built for the 2020s and can withstand the rapid transition to OTT offerings by consumers no longer reliant on prime-time scripted shows across NBC, ABC and CBS.
Should WHDH win the FOX affiliation, Ansin won’t celebrate by handing the reins of Sunbeam to a successor.
“Most people think I’m crazy not to retire,” Ansin said. “Tom Brady plays football until he’s 42, and that’s crazy too. I’m obsessed with television. I just like it.”
When it comes time for Ansin to relax in the sunshine of Miami’s Bay Harbor Islands, where WSVN’s longtime offices and studios can be seen along the 79th Street Causeway, son Andrew Ansin, 56, will eventually head the company. Younger son James Ansin, 53, will continue to be part of the senior management team. Sunbeam Television GM Paul Manges would continue in his role.
That time is likely far into the 2020s. “I want to die with my boots on,” he told Leung.