NewsNation will take longer to build news programming, Nexstar execs say

Nexstar Media Group’s startup cable news channel NewsNation is available to as many homes as CNN or Fox News, but it will still take a few years before the channel offers around-the-clock news and opinion programming like other networks.

At a media conference this week, two Nexstar executives confirmed NewsNation will continue to carry non-news programming for at least the next two years.

“Our goal is to have a 24-7 cable news operation, full cable news operation, by 2024 or 2025,” Tom Carter, the chief operating officer at Nexstar Media Group, said on Wednesday.

The comments were made at the BofA Securities 2022 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference, where companies in the media industry sent executives to give investment bankers an update on the health of their businesses.

It was the first time Nexstar Media Group was invited to the conference, according to the moderator of the panel there, and the broadcast company offered a lot of positive insight into its startup news channel.

NewsNation launched on cable and satellite platforms early last year in the slot that was once occupied by general entertainment network WGN America. The pay television network was one of two Nexstar acquired through its purchase of Tribune Media in 2019.

The network launched with a promise of delivering facts-first, unbiased news and information programming to viewers, an attempt to woo over TV viewers who have become dismayed by the partisan programming on other cable news channels. The company said it was well-positioned to deliver news from every corner of the country because it could tap into thousands of journalists working across the 200-plus television stations it owns.

From the start, the network was bogged down by internal rifts: The channel’s inaugural news director, Sandy Pudar, resigned after Nexstar hired William “Bill” Shine — a former White House official who served under then-President Donald Trump — to consult on the network’s editorial products. Other key employees, including the company’s vice president of news, also resigned.

On Wednesday, Nexstar executives didn’t address the internal rift, choosing instead to paint a rosy picture of NewsNation’s business.

“It has been profitable since day one,” Carter claimed. “If NewsNation were a television station, it would be our most-profitable television station.”

Lee Ann Gliha, Nexstar’s chief operating officer, said the company’s carriage deals for NewsNation across cable, satellite and streaming cable TV replacements makes the news channel accessible in 70 million homes across the country, which she said was on par with CNN and Fox News.

But the channel’s accessibility does not necessarily mean people are tuning in: According to a recent report, around 50,000 households regularly watch NewsNation’s prime-time programming.

Last month, NewsNation announced it was hiring former CNN commentator Chris Cuomo for a new opinion program. The show starts in early October. Carter said NewsNation’s commentary programs are intended to help address the 60 percent of viewers who don’t identify with extreme partisan politics.

“It’s balanced opinion — we give both sides of the story, it’s fair and balanced from that perspective,” Carter said. “We’re not trying to get to the 20 percent on either end of the political spectrum; we’re trying to address the 60 percent in the middle, and we think we’re doing a good job. The continued adoption and awareness and viewership growth of NewsNation has given us, I think, confirmation that we’re on the right track.”