Nexstar CEO Perry Sook Says Activity Around Sports Is ‘Frenetic’

Nexstar chief Perry Sook
Perry Sook (Image credit: Nexstar)

Nexstar Media Group CEO Perry Sook says his company is having a lot of conversations with sports team owners about putting games on stations and The CW as regional sports networks face an uncertain future.

“I can tell you that the number of inbound inquiries, as well as discussions that are going on with team owners … the activity is frenetic around here. There are lots of discussions,” said Sook, speaking on Nexstar’s fourth-quarter earnings call Tuesday.

Last week, E.W. Scripps. Co. said its phones were ringing with teams looking into opportunities to put games on broadcast. Scripps last year launched Scripps Sports to take advantage of opportunities arising as RSNs implode.

Sook noted that Nexstar’s agreement to put a group of Los Angeles Clippers NBA basketball games exclusively on Nexstar stations in California, including KTLA Los Angeles, “broke the seal” on returning games to broadcast.

“Other team owners have taken notice of that,” he said. ”We have a receptive audience, certainly among NBA owners and NHL owners that see the value of broadcast TV in exposing and distributing their product to a much larger audience than is available in the pay TV universe.” Sook said.

But he noted that people want to see how the RSN situation plays out and what that means to them. 

Diamond Sports, which runs the Bally Sports RSNs, missed an interest payment earlier this month and appears to be heading towards a restructuring or bankruptcy. Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association have said that if their teams aren’t paid the contractual fees for broadcast rights, they’ll find alternative ways of television games.

Warner Bros. Discovery is also looking to get out of the regional sports network business and has told the leagues it wants to return TV rights to the teams.

Sook said Nexstar was also interested in putting more sports on The CW Network, which it acquired last year.

The CW acquired the rights to the controversial LIV Golf tour, which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia.

“We’re very pleased with our first weekend of LIV Golf,” Sook said. 

Across the first three days, LIV Golf was viewed by more than 1.4 million total viewers across both the CW linear TV network and the CW app, Sook said. He said that was 24% higher than the average golf telecast so far this year.

“The linear broadcast ratings increased 21% from Saturday to Sunday,” he added. “Those numbers exceeded our expectations.”

Sook said advertising on LIV Golf was selling “very well” and that Nexstar stations were generating three times the revenue from LIV Golf than from other network programming.

“I think we’ll continue to grow as we get more into the season,” he said.

He said he would be interested in putting more sports on The CW, either on weekends or potentially moving into primetime. ■

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.