While health officials warn of “significant disruption” and the stock market drops over coronavirus fears, The Chicago Tribune reports Nexstar Media Group sees an economic upside: If people end up hunkered down at home during a widespread quarantine, it could mean more television viewers.
At least that’s the take of Perry Sook, the chairman and CEO of Dallas-based Nexstar, which owns WGN in Chicago and nearly 200 other TV stations across the country.
“If you’re quarantined in your home and one of the few things you can do is watch television, I think advertisers see the benefit in that,” said Sook during a fourth-quarter earnings call Wednesday.
Sook said a coronavirus epidemic in the U.S. could boost television viewership and advertising revenue.
“We don’t think it will have a negative impact on our operations,” Sook said. “In fact, if it becomes more widespread in the United States and there’s more quarantine in home and all of that, then it could potentially benefit our business because we’d be the primary source of entertainment.”
Nexstar completed its $4.1 billion purchase of Chicago-based Tribune Media in September, creating the nation’s largest local TV station group and moving WGN’s TV, radio and cable stations under the Dallas company’s ownership.
Since acquiring Tribune Media, Nexstar has shaken up the WGN-AM 720 on-air lineup and pulled the plug on Chicago cable news channel CLTV. But its biggest change is set to roll out this summer, when WGN America launches “News Nation,” a three-hour nightly newscast to compete with established cable news networks such as CNN and Fox.
WGN America is hiring more than 140 employees in Chicago to produce and present the news, Sook said Wednesday.