WGN America to Rebrand as NewsNation: An "Unbiased" Competitor to Cable News Giants

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

Nexstar CEO Perry Sook

As part of the rebrand, NewsNation will add two hours of live coverage from 6-8 p.m. hosted by Nichole Berlie and Joe Donlon, respectively.

Nexstar, the local TV station giant, is rebranding its national cable channel WGN America as NewsNation, positioning it as a "fact-based and unbiased" competitor to cable news channels like CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.

When it relaunches on March 1, NewsNation will be available in 75 million homes, after new carriage deals with distribution providers increased its household base by 8.5 million. For comparison, Fox News was in 83 million homes as of last July.

As part of the rebrand, NewsNation will add two hours of live coverage from 6- 8 p.m.: NewsNation Early Edition from 7-7 p.m. and The Donlon Report from 7- 8 p.m. Nichole Berlie and Joe Donlon will host those hours, respectively.

In addition, the channel's 8-10 p.m. primetime programming will be rebranded as NewsNationPrime, anchored by Marni Hughes and Rob Nelson. At 10 p.m., the previously announced Banfield, led by former MSNBC and CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield, will air.

“Rebranding WGN America as NewsNation underscores the network’s clearly defined mission of delivering fact-based and unbiased news, while making it easier for viewers to find this new informative source for news,” said Sean Compton, Nexstar Inc.’s networks division president. “At the same time, expanding our news programming to five hours Monday through Friday will extend the network’s reach and the depth of its news content across more weeknight time periods, delivering viewers more national news and regional stories from across the U.S., as well as coverage of the day’s most important issues.”

Nexstar acquired WGN America as part of its $4.1 billion acquisition of Tribune Media in late 2019. In early 2020 it announced its plans to launch a primetime news block, replacing the library entertainment content that had been airing on WGN America. WGN America had previously dabbled in original entertainment programming, most notably its original series Underground, which was canceled in 2017.

The company's bet then, as now, is that there is demand for "unbiased" news on cable TV, going so far as to monitor the scripts and language used by the anchors to stamp out "bias." NewsNation also relies on Nexstar's 198 local TV stations to funnel stories and content to its cable newscasts.

While so far the channel only has original news programming in the evenings, the rebrand leaves open the possibility that it would expand its news hours to the mornings or daytime.