‘News Nation’ premieres to modest ratings

"News Nation"

Based on its opening night ratings, “News Nation” still has a long way to go if it’s serious about taking on the big cable news networks.

An average of 116,000 viewers nationwide tuned in to the three-hour debut of WGN America’s “News Nation” Tuesday night, according to Nielsen figures released today.

By comparison, Fox News averaged 3.637 million viewers, MSNBC averaged 2.194 million viewers, and CNN averaged 1.685 million during primetime in August.

Actual viewership for “News Nation,” which peaked at 146,000 during the second hour, represented a tiny fraction of the 75 million households Nexstar claims it reaches with the Chicago-based network.

Overall audience was down an average of 50 percent for the same three-hour time period one year ago on WGN America, which previously aired entertainment programming from 7 to 10 p.m. Central Time.

Nexstar spent $20 million and hired more than 150 people for the startup, originating from newly built studios at WGN headquarters on the North Side. The company budgeted an additional $100 million in advertising and promotion for the newscast, which is billed as free of bias or opinion.

The only other national TV network based in Chicago, Weigel Broadcasting’s MeTV, averaged 713,000 viewers nationally from 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesday — up more than 20 percent over last year.