News station to start new content in July

July 1 will bring a newly expanded lineup for viewers of four-state local news station WHAG-TV, and another step in its expansion is expected in 2017.

Nexstar Broadcasting Group Inc., the parent company of WHAG and a host of other local-oriented stations across the U.S., announced in February that it would invest $1 million in the channel’s expansion. WHAG will no longer be an NBC-affiliated station come July 1.

As stated in a Monday release, the station began broadcasting West Virginia Tonight – which is focused on news, weather and traffic in the Eastern Panhandle – at a 5:30 p.m. timeslot earlier this month. A newscast centered on Frederick and Montgomery counties in Maryland called the I-270 News will begin in July at 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. timeslots.

The release also states that WHAG expects to launch a newscast sometime in the first quarter of 2017 that will be branded as NOVA News and take 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. timeslots.

Hugh Breslin, vice president and general manager of the station, said the news bureau in Berryville is in the middle of relocating to Winchester. He said three full-time reporters and two marketing staff members are moving to the Jubal Early Drive location, which will be identified as WHAG’s Northern Shenandoah Valley newsroom.

Another news bureau around Centreville will be a hub for content from Loudoun, Fauquier and Prince William counties. Breslin said six reporters will work out of that bureau once it’s established. He said content from the Winchester office will start off WHAG’s Virginia news, but NOVA News – including content from the Northern Shenandoah Valley – will reach its second stage in 2017.

“At that point we’ll have nine full-time reporters covering news in NOVA,” he said. “It’s kind of a two-step process as it relates to the Northern Virginia broadcast we’re doing.”

Breslin said transmission contracts operate on a three-year cycle that will open up at the end of 2016. To offer WHAG to viewers farther south in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, he said the station would need to gain distribution outlets there at around that time period.

“Hopefully we’ll be successful in gaining that carriage and move forward in 2017,” he said.

Breslin said WHAG will continue its “flagship” newscasts in addition to the locally-focused programming on West Virginia Tonight, I-270 News and NOVA News. Starting in July, the 6 p.m. WHAG broadcast will expand to an hour long, while the 11 p.m. broadcast will be bumped up to 10 p.m.

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