Scott D. Pierce: Parent company of 2 Utah TV stations may buy a broadcast network

The purchase won’t be noticeable to most local viewers. Probably.

(The CW) The Nexstar Media Group, which owns Salt Lake City TV stations KTVX-Ch. 4 and KUCW-Ch. 30, is reportedly on the verge of buying The CW network.

Two of Utah’s local TV stations may soon be owned by a company that owns a broadcast network, but neither station is being sold. It’s the network that’s for sale.

They’re still working on a deal, but don’t be surprised when the Nexstar Media Group announces that it’s buying The CW from Paramount Global (formerly known as ViacomCBS) and Warner Bros. Discovery. And Nexstar is the parent company of not just Utah’s CW affiliate, KUCW-Ch. 30, but also Utah’s ABC affiliate, KTVX-Ch. 4.

Nexstar has a lot of local stations. More than anybody else. It owns or operates 200 stations in 116 markets across the country — from the No. 2 market (Los Angeles) to the No. 197 market (San Angelo, Texas) — including the two Salt Lake City stations in the No. 30 market.

The Texas-based company has a reputation for being sort of a benevolent behemoth. Its local news operations don’t have a political bent, and its stations aren’t dictated to from company headquarters. That’s a decided contrast to the right-wing propaganda viewers of Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned or operated stations (including KUTV-Ch. 2, KJZZ-Ch. 14 and KMYU-Ch. 12 in Utah) have come to expect.

(Nexstar Media Group) The nation's largest owner of local TV stations is reportedly on the verge of buying The CW network.

Nexstar also has a reputation for being cheap. That comes as no surprise to viewers of KTVX’s newscasts on both Ch. 4 and Ch. 30, who can see that the “New 4 Utah” team is operating on a limited budget.

The company has poured a lot of money into its NewsNation cable channel. It acquired the cable channel, then known as WGN America, when it purchased Tribune Broadcasting in 2019, and has converted it into a cable news channel.

The plan was for NewsNation to compete with CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, which hasn’t exactly worked out yet. When WGN became NewsNation, ratings plummeted, and they’ve remained low. Nexstar has spent hundreds of millions of dollars for a prime-time audience that averages around 40,000 to 60,000 viewers.

To put that in perspective, the 10 p.m. newscast on Nexstar-owned KTLA-Ch. 5 in Los Angeles pulls in audiences that regularly exceed 100,000 viewers.

If, as expected, Nexstar buys The CW, local viewers won’t see any changes on Ch. 4. They won’t see any changes to the non-network part of Ch. 30′s schedule. They will, like viewers everywhere else, see changes to The CW’s schedule. Keep in mind Nexstar’s reputation for being tight with a dollar.

The fact is that The CW has lost money ever since it launched in 2006, a merger of sorts between The WB and UPN. It made economic sense for Warner Bros. and CBS as a platform for shows they produced, which were then sold to streamers, in syndication and internationally. That’s why The CW regularly renewed virtually all of its schedule, despite low ratings.

But that model no longer makes sense. Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery each have their own streaming services, Paramount+ and HBO Max, respectively.

And the impending sale to Nexstar is why The CW broke with tradition and swung the ax on a lot of shows last month — canceling “Batwoman,” “Charmed,” “D.C.’s Legends of Tomorrow,” “Dynasty,” “The 4400,” “In the Dark,” “Legacies,” “Naomi” and “Roswell, New Mexico.” It also announced that the upcoming seventh season of “Riverdale” will be the last.

Nexstar isn’t going to pay for a lot of high-priced TV series. The future for The CW will feature fewer hourlong dramas and, potentially, fewer superhero shows. There will be more unscripted and/or reality shows and more foreign acquisitions. (It already has several, including “Family Law” and “Professionals.”) There might be half-hour comedies. There will probably be shows from studios other than Paramount and Warner Bros.

There won’t be as many big-budget productions. There will be shows that look and are, well, cheap.

And, come to think of it, local viewers might be affected by the sale of The CW to Nexstar. If the new owner can’t figure out a way to make money on the network — or, at least, break even — the “News 4 Utah” budget might get even tighter.

Juneteenth specials

“Juneteenth: A Global Celebration of Freedom” (Sunday, 6 p.m., CNN) • Scheduled performers at this concert event include Khalid, Yolanda Adams, Anthony Hamilton, Billy Porter, the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Earth, Wind & Fire, Jhené Aiko, Killer Mike, Lucky Daye, Mary Mary, Michelle Williams, Mickey Guyton, Robert Glasper, The Roots and the Re-Collective Orchestra, a 68-piece all-Black symphony orchestra.

“The Black Pack: Excellence” (Sunday, 8 p.m., CW/Ch. 30) • Taye Diggs, Ne-Yo and Eric Bellinger headline this music/dance hour that celebrates the holiday. Guests include Jordin Sparks and Tank.

New stuff this week

“Hotel Portofino” (Sunday, 7 p.m,. PBS/Ch. 7) • An upper-crust British family opens a swanky hotel on the Italian Riviera in the 1920s in this six-part drama. It’s very Brit and very PBS.

“Mind over Murder” (Monday, 8 p.m., HBO/streaming on HBO Max) • This six-part, true-crime series is equal parts fascinating and aggravating. In 1985, six Nebraskans are wrongfully convicted of rape and murder, based on coerced confessions. Almost a quarter of a century later, DNA evidence exonerates them.

“37 Words” (6 and 7 p.m., ESPN; 8 and 9 p.m., ESPN2; streaming on Disney+ and Hulu) • Four part documentary about how Title IX has affected college sports. (Two episodes debut Tuesday; the final two on June 28.)

“Joel Kim Booster: Psychosexual” (Tuesday, Netflix) • The writer and star of “Fire Island” performs his standup act.

“Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes” (Wednesday, 7 p.m., HBO) • This five-part docuseries is a followup to the drama “Chernobyl” — it features recently discovered archival footage of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

“Beavis and Butt-head Do the Universe” (Wednesday, Paramount+) • Well, kids, here’s the truth. “Beavis and Butt-head” wasn’t funny in the 1990s, and this revival movie isn’t funny, either.

“The Bear” (Thursday, Hulu) • This FX-produced comedy stars Jeremy Allen White (“Shameless”) as a chef who returns to Chicago to take over the family sandwich shop after the unexpected death of his brother. It has some very funny moments.

“Gordita Chronicles” (Thursday, HBO Max) • Coming-of-age comedy/drama about a 12-year-old Dominican girl growing up in Miami in the 1980s. Eva Longoria and Zoe Saldana are among the producers.

“Loot” (Friday, Apple TV+) • Surprisingly good new workplace comedy about a woman (Maya Rudolph) who ends up in control of a charity foundation and the people who work for her (including MJ Rodriguez, Joel Kim Booster and Ron Funches).

“Rise” (Friday, Disney+) • Movie based on the real-life Antetokounmpo family, who immigrated from Nigeria to Greece to the United States, where Giannis, Thanasis and Kostas became NBA stars.

“Trevor: The Musical” (Friday, Disney+) • Filmed version of the off-Broadway musical about a 13-year-old boy who decides the only way to deal with being bullied for being gay is to end his life. It’s based on the 1994 short “Trevor,” which won an Oscar and inspired The Trevor Project, a crisis and suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

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