A broadcaster who was behind the show that is said to have inspired the NBC sitcom “Cheers” has died. The New York Times reports that Robert Bennett died Tuesday in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 89.
Bennett “guided the transformation of a Boston television station into an uncommon font of original programming and went on to run the nation’s largest broadcast station group,” The Times reports.
After overseeing New York’s successful local station WNEW-TV, Bennett took a job with Boston Broadcasters Inc. and became a key player in an effort to transform Boston’s local television scene.
The group acquired Boston station WHDH-TV in 1972 and relaunched it as WCVB, giving Bennett creative control and an ownership stake. Bennett was tasked with creating 50 hours of original programming per week.
“While other local stations were making big profits carrying reruns, Mr. Bennett turned to homegrown content,” The Times reports. “Although it was an ABC affiliate, the station far surpassed its promise on original programming, broadcasting as much as 62 hours each week — about 30 percent of its content — at a time when most local stations devoted less than 10 percent of their airtime to shows produced in-house.”
One of the local programs created on Bennett’s watch was the sitcom “Park Street Under,” set in a Boston bar and produced for $10,000 an episode. The show reportedly inspired “Cheers.”
“Many WCVB shows went into syndication, and Boston Broadcasters eventually opened a division dedicated to selling the station’s content worldwide,” The Times notes.
After the sale of WCVB to Metromedia in 1981, Bennett became president of Metromedia Broadcasting and a partner in Metromedia Inc. He ran the company’s station group from 1983 to 1985.