Nexstar CEO Perry Sook says the Hollywood community has “responded” to the company’s overhaul of The CW, and sports rights conversations have been “steady” since the company started airing LIV Golf this year.
“They’re talking to everybody in Hollywood,” Sook said of CW chief Dennis Miller and programming head Brad Schwartz. “One of the most pleasant surprises following our takeover is that when we said that the doors are open, let’s talk about doing business, the community responded. It’s in everybody’s best interest that there’s a viable fifth network competitive out there.”
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Sook delivered the comments during the company’s first quarter earnings call, adding that The CW has limited exposure to the WGA strike given its new focus on unscripted fare.
Earlier Tuesday, Nexstar reported diluted earnings per share of $2.97, which was down significantly from the $5.99 it posted in the political-ad-fueled 2022 period but better than Wall Street analysts’ consensus expectation. Total revenue also topped forecasts, increasing 4% to $1.257 billion.
Last September 30, Nexstar obtained a 75% stake in The CW, with previous 50-50 partners Paramount and Warner Bros Discovery retaining 12.5% apiece. The timing of the deal’s close will make year-to-year comparisons inexact until the fourth quarter. When the CW was factored out, Nexstar said, its first-quarter revenue slipped 1% to $1.2 billion. In addition to the absence of political ad revenue in the current-year quarter, Nexstar also noted the lack of Olympics ad proceeds on the company’s NBC affiliates.
Distribution revenue set a record in the quarter, driven by a renewal with YouTube TV for the CW, NewsNation and Nexstar’s 40 CBS affiliate stations. That agreement included the first carriage deal on the streaming pay-TV bundle for 59 CW, MyNetwork and independent stations owned by Nexstar.
Asked about sports rights given the CW’s deal to broadcast the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit, Sook maintained that broadcast TV is “once again the belle of the ball” after years of cable being the dominant distribution options for sports leagues. Conversations about additional rights “have been steady,” Sook added, “and we remain convinced they will produce results.”
CFO Lee Ann Gliha said given commitments from the prior ownership of the CW, 2024 will be the first full year when the CW reflects “the Nexstar way of doing things.” The lone holdover from the drama-driven slate of the past is All American. She said efforts to achieve profitability by 2025 remain on track.
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