Waterman Broadcasting, which has owned and operated WBBH-TV since purchasing it in 1978, has reached an agreement with New York City-based Hearst to sell the station that broadcasts NBC-2 in the Fort Myers market.
The price: $220 million, according to documents filed Tuesday with the Federal Communications Commission.
The impending sale, which will have to be approved by the FCC, would make WINK-TV, Southwest Florida’s CBS affiliate, the only family owned and operated TV station in the nation’s 55th-ranked television market.
In 2021, there were 77 TV stations sold at an average price of $58.2 million for full-power stations, according to TV Tech, an online industry publication. Two years later, Hearst’s purchase price of Waterman at $220,540,000 is 278% higher than the average sale price from two years ago.
Hearst also has the option to purchase ABC-7, also known as WZVM-TV, for $4.4 million, according to the contract. Otherwise, Hearst would continue to operate ABC-7, which has been owned by Montclair Communication since 1996, under a time brokerage/local marketing agreement similar to the current setup. If Hearst purchases ABC-7, the total price would be exactly $225 million.
The two stations share studios off Central Avenue in Fort Myers. FOX-4, also known as WFTX-TV, is owned by Scripps, based in Cincinnati.
Since Bernie Waterman’s death at age 96 in November 2017, his wife, Edith Waterman, has owned the station, also known as NBC-2. Approaching her 100th birthday, she wanted to sell, said Steve Pontius, the executive vice president and general manager of Waterman Broadcasting.
“She asked us to find the best buyer possible,” Pontius told Gulfshore Business.
“That would continue the success she and Bernie had over the decades.”
Hearst owns 33 stations across the country, according to its website, including two in Orlando, one in West Palm Beach and another in the Tampa-St. Petersburg market.
“We wanted a private company,” said Pontius, who announced the news to his staff during a Wednesday afternoon meeting. “We wanted a company that had the highest journalistic standards. It’s a bittersweet time. We’re passionate broadcasters. We love Southwest Florida. We really do. We have one opportunity to get this right, and we’re confident we did.”
Michael Hayes, the chief operating officer for Hearst Television, could not be reached for comment, but Pontius said Hayes told him and his staff they would be retained.
“He told the staff he’s looking forward to every single employee working for him on the new Hearst ownership,” Pontius said. “So, it’s that simple.”