Despite Low Ratings, Nexstar Adding News to Mornings on NewsNation

Dan Abrams during ABC News' 2020 Election Day coverage on Nov. 3.
NewsNation hopes to boost its primetime lineup with Dan Abrams (Image credit: Paula Lobo/ABC via Getty Images)

Even though its evening newscasts are drawing low ratings, Nexstar Media is moving ahead and adding news programming to the morning lineup on NewsNation, the cable channel formerly known as WGN America.

On Sept. 27, NewsNation will launch Morning in America, a live three hour program airing from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. The show will be hosted by Adrienne Bankert, who joined NewsNation earlier this year from ABC News.

Morning in America will replace reruns of Jag.

NewsNation will also take another shot at creating an attractive primetime lineup by inserting Dan Abrams Live at 8 p.m., hosted an executive produced by ABC legal analyst and media entrepreneur Dan Abrams, starting Sept. 27.

Dan Abrams Live takes a timeslot occupied starting Monday by On Balance With Leland Vittert. Nexstar permanent timelots for all new primetime shows, including On Balance, will be announced Sept. 27.

Adrienne Bankert NewsNation

Adrienne Bankert (Image credit: NewsNation)

Nexstar acquired WGN America when it purchased Tribune Media in 2019, It launched a three-hour evening newscast called NewsNation on Sept. 1, 2020, replacing syndicated reruns with live programming the broadcast thought would be more valuable to distributors and advertisers.

Composed mostly of reporting from Nexstar stations, NewsNation was billed as offering straight-down-the-middle stories at a time when cable news is politically polarized.

Nexstar announced plans to rename the channel as NewsNation in January. The network also decided to cut its newscast, replacing its third hour with a talk show hosted by Ashleigh Banfield. Now, the 8 a.m. hour is being replaced as well.

In March, NewsNation VP of News Jennifer Lyons resigned amid concerns the channel might take a right-wing turn because of low ratings.

It turned out that former Fox News president and Trump administration office Bill Shine had been consulting with Nexstar, reportedly alarming some staffers. There were also concerns that Sean Compton, the president of Nexstar’s networks division who oversees Newsnation and who as a radio executive worked with Sean Hannity and Donald Trump, helped arrange an interview with Trump that staffers felt didn’t sufficiently challenge false claims by Trump.

Nexstar hired ABC News exec Michael Corn as president of news in May. Last month, NewsNation hired former Fox News exec Cherie Grzech as managing editor.

Ratings for the NewsNation’s news programming have been dropping all year. In January, the network averaged 65,000 viewers from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. according to Nielsen and just 15,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic used to sell ads in news programming.

By June, that time period was down to 28,000 viewers and 5,000 in the demo.

Bankert said she will be looking to put stories in context and connect with audiences with the new morning show.

“Even if people wake up on the so-called ‘wrong side of the bed,’ I want them to turn on the TV and be not only more informed, but feel better, even happier watching us,” she said. “I believe we are called to a higher standard at NewsNation—to offer a variety of viewpoints across America and give dignity to every voice. That’s what you’ll find on Morning In America five days a week.”

Abrams called joining NewsNation a natural fit for him. "Too much of cable news is polluted by partisanship with shows focused on indoctrinating viewers, unabashedly cheering for one side or another,” he said. “We are committed to presenting independent-minded analysis and opinion on politics, media, and the most important stories of the day, exposing hypocrisy on all sides so viewers can make up their own minds. Always fact based, sometimes surprising, but never agenda driven—you might call it a cable news show for the rest of us.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.