Nexstar CEO Perry Sook Eyes Bidding Wars for The CW Affiliations

Perry Sook at the 24th B+C Hall of Fame.
Perry Sook (Image credit: Future)

Nexstar Media Group CEO Perry Sook anticipates a bidding war for The CW affiliations in some of the markets where CBS-owned stations have announced plans to become independents.

Speaking on Nexstar’s first-quarter earnings call Tuesday, Sook said that when Nexstar agreed to acquire control of The CW from Paramount Global parent CBS and Warner Bros. Discovery, it knew CBS did not intend to renew The CW affiliation for the affiliates it owned at the end of the season.

“We went with their timetable for when they wanted to make a public announcement internally and externally,” Sook said. “The good news is we have multiple expressions of interest for affiliations in virtually every market.”

Nexstar has stations that could be converted to The CW affiliates in some markets.

“So we do not anticipate any issue and in fact in a company of markets we have — it’s too strong to call it a bidding war, because the discussions haven’t progressed that far — but multiple expressions of interest,” Sook said.

“People recognize the value of having The CW affiliation versus having no affiliation,“ he said. “That will ultimately help us drive price and terms in new affiliation agreements.”

Sook also said Nexstar remains interested in sports, having added the controversial Saudi-backed LIV golf league to The CW schedule.

Last year, Nexstar's KTLA Los Angeles made a deal to air 15 Los Angeles Clippers games. “I can tell you that was a financial success for KTLA and we’re in discussions on a renewal as we speak,” Sook said.

Broadcasters like Nexstar, the E.W. Scripps Co. and Gray Television are looking to add live sports to their programming mix as cable regional sports networks go bankrupt under the strain of cord-cutting and high sports rights payments.

Sook indicated Nexstar won’t pay the high fees RSNs have been paying. “I think the reality is there will likely be a step down in the economics [of rights fees] but that may transfer into other things increased reach might entice, like better attendance at the gate,” he said.

“I think every sports owner is going to go through this in real time, and every league commissioner is going to go through this in real time,“ he said. “You know, there’s a reason the RSNs are in bankruptcy — because that business model is not sustainable. I think everybody gets that. It’s now what’s the new world order, which I think includes broadcast.”

Sook noted that live news and live sports are key drivers in retransmission negotiations, so sports deals don’t generate revenue just from advertising.

“As broadcast is invoked once again, for some of us it never fell out of vogue as a distribution mechanism and a way to achieve superior reach,” he said.

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.