Hearst to buy Ft. Myers station along with LMA deal with another in the market

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Hearst Television will acquire control of a virtual duopoly of Ft. Myers stations.

Waterman Broadcasting, which owns NBC affiliate WBBH and has a local marketing agreement with ABC affiliate WZVN, which is owned by Montclair Communications is selling both its station and the accompanying LMA deal to Hearst.

The sale marks the end of the long-time ownership and management by the Waterman family. The surviving member, Edith Waterman, will turn 100 in September 2023, according to the station.

The sale is expected to go through in July or August 2023, pending FCC approval.

After that Hearst will take over and continue the LMA with Montclair. The two stations already share a facility but have separate studios and mostly unique on-air talent.

Hearst already owns several other stations in Florida, including WESH and WKCF in Orlando, WPBF in West Palm Beach and WMOR in Tampa.

Although no specific plans have been announced, there is likely to be at least some cost-savings measures under the new ownership, such as combining master control operations and backend office functions. Hearst also operates a graphics hub for its stations.

In addition, the stations may be able to pool resources for statewide coverage — and the new Hearst stations could also prove useful additions during hurricane season by providing an additional on-the-ground reporting team as well as potential alternative facilities if one or more other station in the state is affected by storms.

WBBM brands on air as NBC 2 in reference to its position on most cable system lineups, rather than its over-the-air assignment on Channel 20. Likewise, WZVN brands as “ABC 7” in reference to its cable assignment on most systems, though it’s 26 over the year. WZVN’s calls are also a reference to the word “seven.”

Meanwhile, the market’s CBS affiliate is WINK, which is owned by Fort Myers Broadcasting Company. That station, in turn, has LMAs with CW affiliate WXCW, Univision WUVF-LD and Azteca América affiliate WANA-LD.