WHAG looks to expand broadcast in valley

Four-state local news station WHAG-TV will be adding content and coverage this summer through an expansion by Nexstar Broadcasting Group Inc.

Nexstar will be investing $1 million to bring new locations, employees and equipment to WHAG by July 1. WHAG General Manager and Vice President Hugh Breslin said that WHAG, which is located in Hagerstown, Maryland,  will be adding positions that add up to a 25 percent increase in personnel.

July 1 will also mean that WHAG will no longer be affiliated with NBC networks, but Breslin said that Winchester audiences will be able to watch NBC content through WRC out of Washington, D.C.  Those who use an antenna to watch channels may not be able to access WRC in parts of the valley, according to FCC reception maps

The affiliation meant that WHAG was required to air the network’s schedule of programming.

“By choosing not to be an NBC affiliate coming forward, it allows us the freedom of…much more local programming,” he said.

WHAG will be airing around 20 more hours of local news coverage per week, with certain broadcasts specifically focused in northern Virginia.

“People have a tremendous appetite for local news about their communities, and we’ve seen that all the years we’ve been in business,” Breslin said.

Currently reaching customers in the city of Winchester and Clarke, Frederick and Warren counties, Breslin said that WHAG aims to offer coverage to Shenandoah, Page and Rappahannock counties by 2017. He said WHAG will be working with television providers over the coming year and more developments regarding that area of distribution would most likely come about in the third or fourth quarter.

As part of the $1 million expansion, WHAG will relocate its bureau in Berryville to Winchester. It’ll also be relocating its bureau in Germantown, Maryland.

According to a Nexstar press release, WHAG is looking to open an office in Centreville, which Breslin said will be a hub of new coverage from Prince William, Loudon, Fairfax and Faquier counties.

“That’s probably the single biggest area where we’ve got the work cut out for us to provide cable,” he said.

Media General announced in January that Nexstar is expected to complete acquisition of the company by the third or fourth quarter. On top of the expansion, this acquisition would network WHAG’s coverage with that of stations in Richmond and Norfolk. Breslin said that plans for the expansion were already set before WHAG learned of Nexstar’s acquisition.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com