NBC ‘disappointed’ in WHDH lawsuit alleging breach of contract

Ed Ansin, owner of WHDH-TV.
Ed Ansin, owner of WHDH-TV. –Pat Greenhouse / Boston Globe

WHDH-TV Channel 7 filed a federal lawsuit against NBC parent company Comcast on Thursday, accusing the media conglomerate of illegally breaching its contract with the local affiliate and violating anti-trust laws.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, comes a few months after Comcast announced it will drop its affiliation with WHDH. The lawsuit asks for an injunction to keep the status quo and to award unspecified damages.

“While repeatedly promising WHDH that it would discuss an extension of its affiliate agreement ‘when the time was right,’ Comcast ultimately refused to negotiate with WHDH at all,’’ the lawsuit says. “Instead, while it was promising WHDH it would negotiate, Comcast secretly developed and thereafter announced a plan to replace WHDH as its NBC Boston affiliate with a completely new station to be owned and operated by Comcast.’’

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Comcast has said it will instead launch a new Comcast-owned network called “NBC Boston’’ that will show NBC programs and new syndicated shows.

An NBC Universal spokesperson said in a statement that the company was “disappointed’’ that Sunbeam, which owns WHDH, filed the “meritless’’ lawsuit.

“NBC has had a long, mutually successful relationship with Sunbeam, which is expiring under the agreed-upon terms of WHDH’s affiliation contract at the end of the year,’’ the spokesperson said in a statement. “We are disappointed that Sunbeam has chosen to file this meritless lawsuit, and that it has chosen to do so by constructing baseless claims against our parent company.’’

Ed Ansin, WHDH’s owner, had previously told The Boston Globe that the company would contest the decision. WHDH has been an NBC affiliate since 1995.

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