As the stations benefit from the revenue streams, networks have been looking to grab a share. Sook said Nexstar has made one deal, including a sort of reverse compensation.
But that network is not looking for a percentage or share of the retrans dollars -- just cash. The agreement calls for a straight payment, with annual increases throughout the duration of the affiliation deal.
Speaking at a UBS investor conference Monday, Sook said stations have been paying networks to defray costs for sports rights for the NFL, Olympics and NCAA basketball tournament for some time. A reverse compensation is not entirely new.
Like many station groups, Nexstar is losing the "Oprah Winfrey Show" next fall and plans to replace it with local programming -- a 4 p.m. newscast with more of a lifestyle focus.
In three markets without "Oprah" -- Austin, Rochester and Amarillo -- it has already added a 4 p.m. newscast to replace syndicated programming. Sook said ratings are up and revenues are between 50% and 200% higher.
The "lifestyle" news allows the station to sell integrations, such as a local chef appearing to promote a restaurant with a cooking segment.
Looking ahead to 2011, Sook said ad bookings for the first quarter are coming in at double-digit percentages -- higher than the first quarter of 2009, for both local and national advertising.
Sook said Nexstar, which operates 62 stations in 34 markets, has had a soaring 2010 with political dollars. Political revenues are 19% higher than 2008 levels, when there was a presidential election. Dollars were also 45% higher than 2006, the last year with a federal election for Congress only.
Also, growth came not just from candidate spending but so-called "issue advertising," which accounted for about 40% of political dollars.