Nexstar Plans Primetime News Block on WGN America

Perry Sook - H Getty - 2018
Credit: Desiree Navarro / Getty

Nexstar CEO Perry Sook

“We believe that there is an audience that is looking for news that is delivered without bias or opinion,” CEO Perry Sook wrote in a memo to staff. “No one is currently doing this in prime-time."

Local TV station giant Nexstar is planning to launch a new primetime cable news block on its WGN America channel.

The block, to be called News Nation, will run from 8 to 11 p.m. each night, incorporating news reports from Nexstar’s 110 local newsrooms from across the U.S.

The move effectively creates a new competitor to Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, but based in Chicago, rather than New York or Washington, D.C. WGN America is available in 75 million homes, nearly as many as the “big three” cable news channels.

In a memo to Nexstar employees Wednesday morning, CEO Perry Sook positioned the block as one for “fact-based news that is impactful, educational, and unbiased,” in contrast to competitors.

“We believe that there is an audience that is looking for news that is delivered without bias or opinion,” he wrote. “No one is currently doing this in prime-time; other networks are carrying entertainment programming, sports programming, or opinionated talk shows.”

Segments from the show will pull from Nexstar’s local stations. “Given WGN America’s reach of 75 million households, News Nation will be a powerful national platform from which to showcase the work of Nexstar’s journalists,” Sook wrote.

“By aggregating our current news resources to produce News Nation, we can leverage WGN America’s strong reach across the U.S. and develop a new unbiased national news broadcast without incurring incremental operating expenses,” he added.

WGN America executive vp Sean Compton will oversee the new block, and the company is building out a studio facility in Chicago to house it, as well as a complimentary digital news offering. WGN-TV news director Jennifer Lyons will become vp news for WGN America, overseeing day-to-day news coverage. WGN America will be hiring about 120 new employees to staff up its news offering.

The shift to news effectively marks the end of WGN America’s foray into cable general entertainment programming. The channel had been operating as a general entertainment offering since 2010, but its programming was unable to find a following. Last year, the company moved many of the jobs in its Los Angeles office back to its headquarters in Chicago.