Nexstar Media believes it has created the nation’s next great evening newscast. All it needs to do now is get viewers to agree.
The company, the nation’s largest owner of TV stations, today will kick off a national promotional effort to call attention to “News Nation,” a primetime three-hour newscast that will air on the cable outlet WGN America seven days a week starting September 1. The show has been devised as a down-the-middle alternative to the talk-show choices served up on many of the nation’s mainstream cable-news outlets at that time of day. Nexstar has hired more than 100 additional journalists to produce the block, which will repeat in late night after its primetime run.
“There is an opportune space for us to just do news” says Sean Compton, executive vice president of WGN America, in an interview.
Promos slated to air on Nexstar’s nearly 200 TV stations, via ads placed on local cable and on news and talk programs on radio, will tell potential viewers that the new program offers “News. Not Talk” and “Facts. Not Opinions.” Asks the narrator of one radio spot: “Why can’t you just get the facts to decide for yourself?”
Research commissioned by Nexstar, says Gannon, suggests most viewers crave a balanced approach, and are seeking a less extreme take on current affairs. Those consumers, he says, want news “without all of the sensationalism, without all the talk, without all the opinion makers.” Perry Sook, Nextstar’s CEO (pictured, above), told investors during a recent conference call that the total value of the promotional effort is close to “a nine-figure amount of both cash and in kind contributions for the company.”
“News Nation” will tilt at some larger empires. Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC have seen their ratings soar in recent months, owing to the growing proximity of the 2020 presidential election and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which has kept viewers hunkered down at home and more available to watch TV.
In June, national news networks saw the largest gains in TV advertising revenue, with CNN’s rising a whopping 86% and Fox News Channel’s growing 55%, according to ad tracker Standard Media Index. MSNBC’s ad revenue rose 10% in the month. All three networks set new viewing benchmarks during the second quarter.
Nexstar still sees an opening, says Compton. “This is largely for people just seeking facts, making up their own minds, not being told how to think or feel.”
The company intends to use its vast network of local stations to fuel the newscast, including Los Angeles’ KTLA and San Francisco’s KRON. As Compton points out, the stations’ newsgathering can turn up on Fox News or CNN through content-sharing agreements, and executives feel a national audience will want to see similar reportage.
“We’ve got the country divided up into six zones, and we have zone producers, and their job is to know exactly what’s going on in those zones in all of those newsrooms and what might be of interest to a national audience,” said Sook. “In addition to the 150 people we’ve hired in Chicago, correspondents that are also based in Miami, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, and D.C. that report exclusively for the network as well as all the behind the scenes production folks that that we think we can give a more representative view of America than perhaps what’s seen inside the New York, D.C., Beltway.” he new program surfaces as contracts to run a handful of syndicated entertainment programs reach their end.
The company has gone so far as to hire “rhetoriticians” to monitor the language used by the anchors to describe events, and will even work to make sure the program gives as much time to President Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden during election coverage. “If we are going to take one, we are going to take the other,” says Compton.
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