Veteran legal analyst Dan Abrams will join NewsNation with a prime-time show

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Journalist Dan Abrams attends A+E Network's "HISTORYTalks: Leadership and Legacy" at Carnegie Hall on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Dan Abrams at a February 2020 event in New York City. (Evan Agostini / Associated Press)

Nexstar's fledgling cable news service NewsNation is shaking up its prime-time lineup after struggling to attract viewers since its September launch.

The Irving, Texas-based media company announced Monday it hired veteran legal analyst Dan Abrams to produce and host a new prime-time program, "Dan Abrams Live," starting Sept. 27. The new program, airing at 8 p.m. Eastern and 5 p.m. Pacific, will add another hour of talk and analysis to NewsNation, which was designed as a neutral alternative to the opinion and commentary featured on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN in the evening hours.

Abrams, 55, has been chief legal analyst for ABC News since 2011 and will remain as a contributor there. He also was the host of "Live PD," the documentary-style A&E series that followed local police patrols around the country in real time. "Live PD" was the most-watched program on cable TV when it was canceled last year after the police killing of George Floyd.

Abrams is also founder and chief executive of Abrams Media, which owns the the Law & Crime TV network and the news industry website Mediaite.

Abrams will be the biggest TV news name to join NewsNation, which launched with anchors and correspondents who were mostly from local Nexstar TV stations around the country. The son of attorney Floyd Abrams is also the first major hire under Michael Corn, the former senior executive producer of ABC's "Good Morning America," who joined NewsNation as president of news in May.

NewsNation, based at the headquarters of Nexstar's Chicago TV station WGN, has failed to find a significant audience for its stated mission to provide a just-the-facts approach to TV news in an age when opinion hosts such Fox News' Tucker Carlson and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow draw the highest ratings.

Formerly WGN America, an entertainment channel carrying reruns of network hits such as "Blue Bloods" and "Last Man Standing," NewsNation averaged 31,000 viewers with its prime-time news programming, according to second quarter figures from Nielsen. So far it has made no inroads to the established cable news channels Fox News (which averaged 2.2 million viewers in the quarter), MSNBC (1.5 million) and CNN (1.2 million).

Despite NewsNation's failure to catch on with viewers, Nexstar remains committed to turning the channel into a full-time news service. On the same day as Abrams' premiere, NewsNation will launch a three-hour morning news program hosted by Adrienne Bankert, who joined the network from ABC News earlier this year.

A woman in a bright yellow dress
Former ABC News correspondent Adrienne Bankert is joining NewsNation as a morning show anchor. (Lorenzo Bevilaqua / ABC)

Bankert's program, airing from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Eastern, will be called "Morning in America." Political junkies may recall the name as the tagline for President Reagan's 1984 presidential reelection campaign.

Abrams' program — news analysis with an opinionated host — appears to be another shift away from Nexstar's original stated mission of a non-biased, just-the-facts approach to TV news. But Abrams asserts he will not approach his role with a defined political point of view.

"Too much of cable news is polluted by partisanship with shows focused on indoctrinating viewers, unabashedly cheering for one side or another," Abrams said in a statement. "We are committed to presenting independent-minded analysis and opinion on politics, media, and the most important stories of the day, exposing hypocrisy on all sides so viewers can make up their own minds."

NewsNation is launching a new program Monday night — "On Balance With Leland Vittert" — hosted by a former Fox News correspondent hired in May. Vittert's topical talk program, which replaces an hour of the nightly newscast "NewsNation Prime," will move to a new time period once Abrams joins the lineup.

Earlier this year, NewsNation launched "The Donlon Report" with Joe Donlon at 7 p.m. Eastern. While Donlon is nonpartisan, the program does at times debate topics that are based on conservative media talking points.

The program reflects the influence of Bill Shine, a former longtime top executive for Fox News who briefly served as a communications director for former President Trump. Shine was hired as a consultant for NewsNation, which has upsetsome journalists working at the network, who fear it will turn into a right-leaning partisan channel.

Earlier this year, NewsNation also hired cable news veteran Ashleigh Banfield to host a nightly program, "Banfield," featuring interviews with newsmakers and celebrities. Under Corn's direction, Banfield now covers more breaking news and crime stories.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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