Nexstar picks up CW affiliations in three markets, including Chicago

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Nexstar Media Group has announced three of its stations will convert to CW affiliates Sept. 1, 2024.

The biggest, WGN in Chicago, that nation’s number three market, marks the return of the affiliation to the station. 

It had been a CW affiliate from 2006 to 2016, before Nexstar acquired the station in 2018.

The market’s current CW affiliate, Weigel Broadcasting’s WCIU, will return to “The U” branding it stopped using in favor of “The CW26” in the fall of 2019. 

Prior to WCIU taking over, Fox-owned WPWR was a CW affiliate from 2016 to 2019.

Meanwhile, WVBT in Norfolk, Virginia, and KLFY in Lafayette, Louisiana, will gain CW affiliation Sept. 1 as well. These are much smaller stations, ranking 43rd and 125th, respectively.

WVBT is current a Fox affiliate and KLFY is affiliated with CBS. It wasn’t immediately clear if those stations would drop their affiliations, move them to a subchannel or add The CW as a subchannel. NewscastStudio has reached out to Nexstar for clarification.

It’s also not clear if WGN will rebrand or somehow add a “CW” reference to its name, though the station’s call sign is very familiar in Chicagoland and the station didn’t drop those letters the last time it was a CW station. Instead, it used a mix of CW branding, largely for prime time, and the WGN name.

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“The addition of these Nexstar-owned stations as affiliates — two of which are among the country’s top-50 largest markets, highlighted by Chicago, at No. 3 — will bring the number of Nexstar-owned CW stations to 42, covering more than 36% of U.S. TV Households,” said Andrew Alford, president of Nexstar’s broadcasting division in a statement. “As The CW’s No. 1 affiliate group, Nexstar is very pleased to be bringing the network’s programming to these stations this fall, especially with NASCAR Xfinity series racing and the WWE’s NXT joining a very robust lineup of sports programming, including LIV Golf and ACC college football and basketball. Adding the CW’s programming to them will offer advertisers a variety of new linear and digital opportunities to reach millions of viewers.”

The move is not surprising, given that Nexstar owns the controlling share in The CW, a stake it acquired from Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery in 2022 (those two companies still own 12.5% each).

Since the sale, CBS followed through with a provision that allowed it to drop CW affiliation on all of the stations it owned without penalty. Nexstar picked up affiliations in those markets where one of its station was available — otherwise it sought other station owners in the region to take on the affiliation.

Switching WGN back to a CW affiliate is also not a surprise, given that it’s Nexstar’s third biggest station behind New York’s WPIX and Los AngelesKTLA

By linking WGN to the CW, Nexstar likely hopes to capitalize on its strength in local news to encourage viewers to stick around for the network’s primetime schedule as well as the sports offerings that will get a big boost in 2025.

After WCIU loses the CW affiliation, it plans to fill the gaps in its schedule with syndicated repeats of off-net shows “The Conners,” “Bob Hearts Abishola” and “Modern Family.” It is also picking up a new game show “The Flip Side.” It will also continue to air “Judge Judy,” “Mathis Court,” “Seinfeld” and “The Neighborhood.”

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