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A recent arrival to primetime cable news is rebranding and expanding to create a larger presence in a field that includes CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC.
WGN America, which reaches 75 million cable subscribers, is changing its name to NewsNation and expanding to five hours of weeknight news programming starting March 1, its owner, Nexstar Media Group, announced Monday.
Three new shows will join "NewsNation," which launched on the Chicago superstation in September and will be renamed "NewsNationPrime" (8-10 EST/5-7 PST), with anchors Marni Hughes and Rob Nelson. It will be preceded by "NewsNation Early Edition” (6 EST/3 PST), hosted by "NewsNation" weekend anchor Nichole Berlie, and “The Donlon Report” (7 EST/PST), anchored by former WGN anchor Joe Donlon.
The network announced earlier this month that Ashleigh Banfield, a veteran of CNN, HLN, MSNBC and Court TV, will anchor "Banfield" (10 EST/7 PST), a news and talk show starting March 1.
Nexstar is trying to position itself as a primetime, non-partisan alternative to competitors that also cover the news but feature varying degrees of opinion and political slant.
“Rebranding WGN America as NewsNation underscores the network’s clearly defined mission of delivering fact-based and unbiased news, while making it easier for viewers to find this new informative source for news,” Nexstar Networks Division President Sean Compton said in a statement. “At the same time, expanding our news programming to five hours Monday through Friday will extend the network’s reach and the depth of its news content delivering viewers more national news and regional stories from across the U.S., as well as coverage of the day’s most important issues.”
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Besides "NewsNation," WGN America's schedule primarily consists of drama and comedy reruns of "Blue Bloods," "Last Man Standing" and other shows. A few years ago, the cable network made a brief foray into original scripted programming with such critically praised series as "Manhattan" and "Underground." With the latest change, its identity as WGN, which dates to 1948, will end. (The station's call letters stood for "World's Greatest Newspaper," a reference to its then-owner, the Chicago Tribune.)
Although CNN, Fox and MSNBC are the biggest, best-known names in cable news, the field is growing. Besides NewsNation and its news-oriented approach, two other small cable competitors, Newsmax and One America News Network (OANN), have enjoyed some recent growth by veering right of Fox and embracing former President Donald Trump.
Fox, the longtime No. 1 cable-news leader, has been dethroned since Election Day by CNN.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: WGN America rebrands, adds news to compete against CNN, Fox, MSNBC