Nexstar Plans to Package CW, NewsNation With Local Stations in TV Upfront (EXCLUSIVE)

Nexstar Media has spent months assembling a massive roster of TV stations; acquring TV’s CW network; and building the NewsNation cable-news oulet. Now comes the hard part: Getting Madison Avenue to buy ads across all of it.

The nation’s largest owner of local TV outlets is ready to make its pitch to advertisers and has already scheduled a presentation for media buyers in New York for April 25. The goal, says Michael Strober, the company’s chief revenue officer, is to showcase the company’s reach among both national and local media. “We can bring local and national to our clients in ways that have never been replicated across the country,” he says in an interview. “The CW, NewsNation, TheHill, Nexstar Digital and over 200 local stations — that to me is our differentiator in the marketplace.”

Nexstar is contacting media agencies just weeks before the industry’s annual “upfront” market, when big media companies try to sell the bulk of their advertising inventory ahead of the next programming cycle. For Nexstsar, the sales session could be critical. The company acquired majority control of CW from Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global in October and has vowed to make the one-time home of “Gossip Girl” and “Arrow” profitable by 2025.

The company has sunk millions into other assets. Nexstar bought the Washington, D.C. news outlet TheHill in 2021 for $130 million, and is launching a panel program based on it for its NewsNation cable network, which launched in March of 2021 and has worked to capture attention with anchors such as Chris Cuomo and Elizabeth Vargas.

Nexstar became the largest station owner in the U.S. after acquiring Tribune Media, owner of outlets like WPIX and WGN, in 2019 for $4.1 billion.

No pressure!

Such an M&A frenzy has spurred one of Nexstar’s larger rivals, Warner Bros. Discovery, to push advertisers in ways they don’t always appreciate. Last year, Warner Bros. Disoovery pressed marketers to commit high levels of ad dollars in order to gain access to desiriable positions in sports or HGTV, according to media buyers familiar with the talks. Some clients and buyers walked away from deals and moved their money to competitors. In recent remarks to investors, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO signaled the company’s intention to push for higher pricing in upfront talks.

Nexstar will take its cue from advertisers, says Strober. “We are taking a very customer-centric approach and we will tailor the [advertising] program to best fit the marketers’ objectives,” he says.

Executives at Nexstar are still considering whether to have a glitzy event on the order that the CW held under its previous owners during May’s Upfront Week, says Strober. A press event is likely to take place in that time frame, he says. This year’s slate looks to be crowded, with Netflix holding forth for the first time, and Alphabet’s YouTube also spotlighting its video assets. NBCUniversal, Warner Bros., Fox and Disney are also expected to make presentatoins. Only Paramount Global is eschewing the big event in favor of targeted discussoins with agenicies and clients

The company will plant its flag in what is expected to be a tough market, acccording to media buyers and advertisers. Many media companies have told investors in recent months that ad sales have declined as big marketers grapple with inflation and a roiling stock market.

Nexstar’s pitch, says one media-buying executive, is likely to focus on reach, or how the company can help advertisers find audiences all over the country in a myriad of different ways thanks to its portfolio. This buyer cautions against any media outlet trying to secure high rates of increase in the current market. “If I were them, I would try to be as friendly in pricing as possible, letting people understand what they are trying to do around reach,” this executive says.

Nexstar has signaled that it wants to be a place with broad appeal. It is scrapping a good portion of the CW’s programming, much of which was tied to superheroes and young-adult dramas. Its NewsNation, while not competitive at present in viewership with CNN, MSNBC or Fox News Channel, has espoused a philosophy of tacking to a non-partisan presentation of news and events.

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