The Nexstar Media Group will officially debut its newest broadcast digital network next week — but millions of Americans won’t be able to tune in right away.
Despite owning or operating nearly 200 local broadcast television stations, Nexstar has secured carriage of its retro channel Rewind TV on around 50 stations, according to an affiliate map reviewed by The Desk this week.
There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the stations that have signed on to carry Rewind TV at launch: Some major market stations like New York City’s WPIX-TV (Channel 11) and KTLA (Channel 5) in Los Angeles will distribute the digital network, but others like San Francisco’s KRON-TV (Channel 4), Sacramento’s KTXL (Channel 40) and Philadelphia’s WPHL (Channel 17) are not included in launch plans.
Other broadcast outlets like Lexington’s WKDY (Channel 56) and KLAS-TV (Channel 8) in Las Vegas won’t get the network until November, Nexstar says.
To make matters worse, Nexstar has not secured cable distribution agreements in many of the markets where a local station is slated to be a launch partner for the network.
The situation has the potential to leave millions of broadcast TV viewers without access to some of their favorite retro shows. Nexstar intends to move re-runs from the 1980s and 1990s off its other digital network, Antenna TV, to Rewind TV. Antenna TV currently has broader carriage on broadcast stations and cable systems throughout the country.
Shows that will move to Rewind TV include “Growing Pains,” “Wings,” “Becker” and “Murphy Brown.” The network will also start airing “The Drew Carey Show,” “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “Suddenly Susan,” with some slows slated to be added next year.
A Nexstar spokesperson didn’t return a request for comment, but a source familiar with the company’s plans said part of the issue stems from technical limitations in markets where broadcast outlets are “maxed out” or close to maxing out on available bandwidth for digital transmissions.
In some of those markets, Nexstar has plans to launch Rewind TV and other upcoming digital networks on its owned or operated stations when affiliate agreements with the E. W. Scripps Company (which operates Court TV, a network carried on some Nexstar stations), Sinclair Broadcast Group (Stadium) and others expire, the source said.
Rewind TV officially debuts on September 1.