Nexstar CEO Says ‘The Hill’ Will Debut On NewsNation Before Year End; Shares Of Biggest U.S. Broadcaster Pop On Earnings

Nexstar Media quarterly revenue surges on Tribune deal

Nexstar CEO Perry Sook said a show called The Hill will debut on NewsNation by year end, building on the 2021 acquisition of the Beltway-focused digital asset as it builds up content on the news network he said is showing “green shoots.”

“We will have a show on the air before the end of year called The Hill because we own the digital asset The Hill, and that will be necessarily kind of a Washington, D.C. panel type show,” Sook said on a call after strong first-quarter financials. “But  I don’t think you will see the entire lineup made up of those,” he said as the network works on a “a smart mix” of programming and a nonpartisan one.

Rating are “small but growing. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We think it’s a great environment for smart viewers to come and be informed and not pandered to, and a smart environment for advertisers because the product is professionally produced and definitely not toxic,” Sook said.

NewsNation started in 2020 as primetime new block on WGN America, which was rebranded in March of 2021 and has expanded to other dayparts. It’s up to 60 hours a week of original content.

NewsNation benefits from Nexstar’s position as the biggest U.S. owner/operator of TV stations. For example, he said, the network was early on the scene with interviews in the recent drama involving former corrections officer (Vicky White) on the run with a convict (Casey White). “That would not have been possible without contacts in Hunstsville, Alabama [near] where the jailbreak occurred, and then in Evansville, Indiana, where we have stations.” (Vicky White died from self-inflicted gunshot injuries when the pair was arrested yesterday.)

Nexstar saw net profit jumped 26% to $251 million on revenue rose 8.6% to $1.2 billion driven by stronger advertising and distribution. Ad sales of $452 million were up 8.3%. That was split between core advertising, up 4% to $428 million, led by entertainment, and political, which surged well over threefold to nearly $24 million. Political is set to surge this year with expected record spending in midterm elections in battleground states. The funds mostly roll in between Labor Day and Election Day.

Digital revenue increased 18.5% year-over-year to about $79 million including contribution from The Hill.

The stock, which has fared better than others in the media space, is up more than 4% today at $159. Sook highlighted the company as a steady performer amid volatile markets, high inflation, rising interest rates and supply chain disruptions. Beyond core advertising and steady distribution revenue, sports betting is a growing contributor to sales as states legalize it and ATSC 3.0, the next generation terrestrial broadcast system, a big opportunity in coming years.

Nexstar executives said the company, which has a strong financial position, always considers attractive M&A but didn’t mention — and wasn’t asked about — the CW. Reports had surfaced early this year that CW co-parents ViacomCBS and the former WarnerMedia were considering selling a controlling stake with Nexstar, as the largest affiliate group, among interested buyers. WarnerMedia merged with Discovery last month.

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