WGN America to add more news, shuffles talent along with name change

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In addition to a name change, Nexstar Media Group is also expanding the news offerings on the network currently known as WGN America.

Nexstar announced Jan. 25, 2021 that its cable network WGN America would change its name to “NewsNation” March 1, 2021, taking on the name of the three hour primetime newscast the channel debuted in September 2020.

Nexstar previously announced the “NewsNation” newscast would be cut back an hour to make way for an interview-style program hosted by Ashleigh Banfield at 10 p.m. eastern.

Additional plans announced Jan. 25 include the addition of a 6 to 7 p.m. eastern edition called “NewsNation Early Edition” to be anchored by Nichole Berlie.

In addition, current primetime anchor Joe Donlon will move off the 8 to 10 p.m. block in favor of a solo hour at 7 p.m. called “The Donlon Report,” which is being billed as a news and talk format.

Plans call for Rob Nelson and Marni Hughes to stay put from 8 to 10 p.m. — which will know be known as “NewsNationPrime.”

The moves equal out a net gain of two hours of original news content on the network.

As a standalone show, “NewsNation” originally aired from 8 to 11 p.m. eastern.

Meanwhile, the rest of the WGN schedule will continue to be filled out with reruns of shows such as “Blue Bloods” and “Last Man Standing,” but the name change appears to be a clear sign of the direction programming will take.

WGN America has a complex history.

It traces its origin to a national feed of local station WGN’s broadcast schedule under the “superstation” model first launched in 1978. Originally almost the entire WGN schedule was fed to the entire country, including local Chicago newscasts, but the two channels began to slowly differentiate feeds over the years.

Eventually WGN America would get its own completely unique feed, as it does today, void of nearly any references to Chicago.

The channel currently airs rerurns of shows such as “Blue Bloods” and “Last Man Standing.”

“NewsNation” as a standalone newscast has failed to build a large audience, although the fact that Nexstar is leveraging content from the local stations it owns across the country creates the potential for it to still make sense economically even with relatively low ratings.

Not only is the company able to reuse original content not available elsewhere, but it also can avoid paying the often pricey fees for airing reruns of network shows.