The shift completes a significant change of direction for the network, which Nexstar took over as part of its acquisition of Tribune Media, a $4.1 billion deal completed in 2019. Tribune had run WGN America as a general entertainment network, filling its pipeline with pricey original dramas like Underground and Manhattan.
After completing recent distribution deals giving it access to 8.5 million U.S. households, WGN America’s penetration now stands at 75 million.
Two new hour-long shows are joining the weeknight lineup: NewsNation Early Edition at 6PM ET, and The Donlon Report, anchored by Joe Donlon, at 7PM ET. Weeknights will be capped off by Banfield, an hour-long news and talk show at 10PM ET hosted by TV news vet Ashleigh Banfield. The new lineup will begin airing March 1.
WGN America’s previous, more cash-intensive strategy no longer seemed viable with the saturation of original dramas, and the unprecedented competition from deep-pocketed streaming services. Nexstar decided to pivot to news, taking the wraps off a primetime block called NewsNation last summer. In the new setup, it will be renamed NewsNationPrime and will run from 8PM to 10PM ET.
Billed as a straightforward alternative for viewers not inclined toward leftward or rightward fare in prime on cable, it has been a relatively slow starter in the ratings. But the cost profile is more attractive, especially given Nexstar’s status as the No. 1 owner of local TV stations, whose resources can be tapped for the nationwide effort.
“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, president of Nexstar’s networks division. “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.”