NEW YORK—Hearst has agreed to acquire WBBH-TV from Waterman Broadcasting Corporation in a deal that will add the NBC-affiliated television station serving the Fort Myers and Naples, Florida, DMA to its presence in the Florida market.
WBBH-TV also broadcasts the Heroes & Icons network on a digital sub-channel.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Under the transaction, Hearst will assume Waterman Broadcasting’s programming relationship with Montclair Communications, Inc., owner of WZVN-TV, the market’s ABC affiliate. WZVN-TV also broadcasts the MeTV and Dabl networks on its digital sub-channels.
The anticipated closing date for the transaction is third-quarter 2023, pending completion of all regulatory approvals.
The acquisition of WBBH-TV expands Hearst’s presence in Florida. The company owns WESH-TV and WKCF-TV, the NBC and CW affiliates in Orlando; WPBF-TV, the ABC affiliate serving the West Palm Beach television market; and WMOR-TV, an independent television station in Tampa-St. Petersburg. Hearst Television reaches nearly one out of every five households in the U.S.
WBBH-TV and WZVN-TV have earned multiple awards for compelling and in-depth journalism and service to the Fort Myers and Naples communities. Collectively, the stations earned three national Edward R. Murrow Awards in 2022 from the Radio Television Digital News Association.
“This transaction provides an excellent strategic fit for our company and underscores our commitment to local television broadcasting and to leadership in our television markets across the country,” Steven R. Swartz, president and CEO of Hearst said.
“Bernie and Edith Waterman have been outstanding stewards of WBBH-TV and the programming relationship with WZVN-TV,” added Jordan Wertlieb, president of Hearst Television Inc. “They have served the viewers of Fort Myers and Naples with distinction since 1979. Of course, both stations provided important lifesaving coverage during Hurricane Ian and have been providing information and updates as the area recovers and rebuilds. We are proud to have been selected to continue the legacy of such distinguished broadcasters.”
"The decision to sell WBBH is challenging and emotional," commented Edith B. Waterman, president of Waterman Broadcasting. "We have had the great privilege of proudly serving southwest Florida for more than four decades. Broadcasting has filled our lives with wonderful relationships and deep ties to our communities. I am so grateful to all the talented and dedicated employees who made our innovative stations pillars of their communities and great places to work and grow over the last 67 years.”
Fort Myers/Naples is the 55th largest television market in the United States. The acquisition would add a 12th NBC affiliate to the Hearst station group. Hearst also owns 14 ABC affiliates. Both represent significant partnerships with the respective networks.
WBBH-TV went on the air in December 1968 as the market’s NBC affiliate. Waterman Broadcasting Corporation was founded by Bernard Waterman in 1956 when he purchased WAAB-AM in Worcester, Massachusetts. WBBH and what is now WZVN began a programming relationship in 1994.
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George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.