The multi-year WGN America deal with YouTube will take effect on January 19. The addition of 3 million YouTube customers extends the network’s total reach to 75 million pay-TV households, Nexstar said.
The deal was announced the day before another major distribution contract is due to expire with Dish Network. Hanging in the balance with Dish, in addition to WGN America, is the largest portfolio of local TV stations owned by a single company in the U.S. Tensions between the parties heading toward Wednesday evening deadline bubbled to the surface last week, with the finger-pointing and name-calling that are customary in carriage disputes.
On Tuesday, a Nexstar rep offered Deadline a more upbeat assessment. “Negotiations continue and we remain hopeful of reaching an amicable deal at fair market rates, just as we have with all of our other large satellite, cable and telco providers,” the spokesperson said.
Dish did not immediately respond to Deadline’s request for comment. The satellite operator is hardly a shrinking violet in carriage talks and has parted ways recently with major content providers like the Sinclair-run regional sports networks as well as HBO. In a bare-knuckled statement issued on Thanksgiving Day, the company called Nexstar a “broadcast giant” aiming to “use its market power to demand unreasonable rate increases while intentionally using millions of Americans as pawns in their negotiations.”
Texas-based Nexstar took over WGN America and stations in key markets like New York, Chicago and LA in 2019 after closing a $4.1 billion deal to acquire Tribune Media. The transaction vaulted the company into the top spot among all station owners, a remarkable rise for a company that started out in 1996 with a single radio station in Scranton, PA.
WGN America, which former Tribune chief Peter Liguori had once positioned as a home for prestige series like Underground and Manhattan, has pivoted toward news. In August, it launched NewsNation, a three-hour weeknight block billed as a straightforward block contrasting with the opinion-heavy primetime offerings on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. Ratings have thus far been modest.
“We are extremely happy to have WGN America joining YouTube TV and we expect to continue the
strategic expansion of WGN America to even more viewers in the months ahead,” said Sean Compton,
president of Nexstar’s networks division. “We look forward to bringing WGN America’s programming and NewsNation’s fact-based, unbiased reporting to YouTube TV subscribers, including coverage of the Presidential inauguration, which takes place just after our partnership begins.”