In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom recap Upfronts Week in New York City as all the networks made their pre-season pitches to advertisers; the FCC approves the latest net neutrality proposal in a noisy meeting; and Tribune’s CEO criticizes the CW, one of his biggest business partners. They also check in on the status of that AT&T-DirecTV megadeal, which may be closer than once thought, while the WWE’s stock gets body-slammed as it grapples with the Street’s disappointment over its NBCU contract extension.
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom wrap up the latest in the big Aereo case before the U.S. Supreme Court later this month, including briefs from an unexpected collection of supporters and financial backer Barry Diller’s comments on the TV service’s future if it loses. The two Davids also weigh Amazon’s rather tardy arrival as a purveyor of video-streaming devices with this week’s launch of the Amazon Fire TV; the Tribune Co.’s evolution as its digital wing buys one TV-oriented data company and relaunches another; and Discovery’s latest in a flurry of deals, as it launches a digital studio in partnership with two big-name Hollywood veterans, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.
CHICAGO, Mar. 17, 2014—Tribune Company today announced the appointment of Keith Bowen to the newly created position of Chief Revenue Officer. Bowen will be responsible for maximizing revenue across the company’s growing broadcast and digital media portfolio, including its local television stations and WGN America. He will lead the company’s effort to drive its revenue streams and identify new opportunities for growth. Bowen will begin his new duties on April 1, and will report to Tribune’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Peter Liguori.
Christa Robinson has been hired as Tribune’s Chief Communications Officer, effective immediately, the company said today. She will report to Tribune’s President and CEO, Peter Liguori. Robinson moves to Tribune from CNN where she led communications and public relations for all CNN Networks and digital platforms from 1999 to 2013. In 2003, she was named SVP of public relations and, beginning in 2007, was also a member of the CNN Worldwide executive team. Before CNN, Robinson served at the Clinton White House where she was the Director of Communications for the Domestic Policy Council. She previously served as the White House liaison to the law enforcement community and worked on crime policy, health care reform and other domestic initiatives. Robinson will be based in Tribune’s New York offices.
Tribune just took a page from the play books of Rupert Murdoch, who recently separated his print operations from entertainment at Fox, and Time Warner, which plans to spin off its magazine unit. Today’s announcement follows Tribune’s agreement last week to pay $2.7B for Local TV, which will make it the nation’s No. 1 independent owner of major network TV affiliates. Tribune also has acknowledged that it’s shopping its newspapers which include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, and Hartford Courant. The company offers familiar justifications for the spin off of its assets in the weakening print business to create a new company called Tribune Publishing: It will enable the execs running that operation to focus on its special needs with its own capital structure — and give them additional flexibility to cut deals. CEO Peter Liguori adds an obligatory assurance to his reporters and editors that the change “will bring single-minded attention to the journalistic standards, advertising partnerships and digital prospects of our iconic newspapers, while also enabling us to take advantage of the operational and strategic opportunities created by the significant scale we are building in broadcasting.” Each company will generate more than $1B a year in revenues after the separation, with sufficient cash flow to “put these businesses in a strong position for continued success.” It could take as long as a year, though, for Tribune to hammer out the details for the spin off — and to secure the approvals it will need from tax officials and the SEC, among others. The company warns “that there can be no guarantee that the transaction will be concluded or assurances as to transaction terms.” Tribune emerged from the media industry’s biggest bankruptcy ever at the end of 2012. Its chief creditors — Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo, Gordon & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co – were empowered to run Tribune, valued then at $4.5B. In Q1 publishing accounted for about 66% of Tribune’s $705M in revenues, but 56% of the $83.5M in operating profits.
Here’s today’s release:
Another round of layoffs has hit the LA Times as parent Tribune Co. looks to unload the newspaper along with seven others. Multiple reports say Friday’s cuts affected at least 20 staffers, including members of the graphics department and newsroom. Editor Davan Maharaj and Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin described the layoffs as “a modest round of staff reductions” in an internal memo Friday. The same day Tribune Co. revealed that its net income dove 41% in the first quarter from $99.1M last year to $58.4M, with its newspaper unit sliding 9% to $254 million in ad revenue. Variety was first to report the cuts.
According to the Orange County Register, the financial books for the entire Tribune Co newspaper group are expected to be sent out any day now. It’s the first step in the bidding process. “The anticipated sale of the Los Angeles Times and seven other Tribune Co newspapers is shaping up as a battle of the titans with at least four big-money bidders expected to be in the running for what media experts say could be a $1 billion deal.” The billionaire Koch brothers confirmed last week they are interested in acquiring newspapers though did not specify which ones. Other potential LA Times buyers cited by analysts include Rupert Murdoch, Eli Broad, Ron Burkle and Austin Beutner (a former Los Angeles deputy mayor and Wall Street big bucks guy), and Aaron Kushner (CEO of Freedom Communications Inc which owns the Orange County Register). Tribune Co hired two investment banks in February to consider the offers and various options. Media experts expect a deal to be done by year’s end. But “there’s also the possibility nothing will happen,” the OC Register noted. “Tribune CEO Peter Liguori has said the Tribune board may decide to keep the newspapers, although most experts believe that is unlikely.”
NewsCorp.’s Rupert Murdoch and a coalition of buyers led by Ron Burkle and Eli Broad have been eyeing the Tribune Co. sale. But sources tell the NYT that Koch Industries, led by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, could have a leg up on other bidders if they make an offer for all eight of Tribune’s regional papers including the LA Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant. Apparently the Koch Bros are only interested in newspapers – not the TV stations – for now.
Free Press CEO Craig Aaron is ringing alarm bells today after the broadcast and newspaper power — which just emerged from bankruptcy — hired a new general counsel: Edward Lazarus, who was FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s chief of staff, overseeing policy development and implementation, strategic planning, and agency management. “He may be just the latest to take a spin through the revolving door, but that doesn’t make his move any less nauseating,” Aaron says. Public interest advocates are souring on the FCC chief as he leads efforts to relax media ownership rules — including one that Tribune wants that would make it easier for a company to own a TV station and major newspaper in the same community. A proposal Genachowski circulated would put the burden on the FCC to show why it should block a cross-ownership arrangement in the 20 largest markets. That appears to be tailor-made for Rupert Murdoch who has kicked the tires at The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune — two cities where Fox also owns TV stations. Tribune CEO Peter Liguori says that Lazarus “has an incredibly sharp mind, broad legal experience, and he played an important role at the FCC,” adding that he’s “the perfect fit as our general counsel.” Prior to working at the FCC, the Yale Law School grad clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, was a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, and chaired the national litigation steering committee for Akin Gump Strauss …
For anyone remotely curious about what the future holds for Tribune under the leadership of newly appointed CEO Peter Liguori, the company’s KTLA broadcast this interview. Liguori’s impressive resume includes stretches at Fox Broadcasting and Discovery Networks. This being KTLA, the focus was on TV with a passing reference to the company’s dozen newspapers which include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. Many observers expect the company to offload the newspapers and concentrate on its broadcast assets. Watch the video after the jump. But beware the infernal autoplay.
This falls into the “as expected” category. We’ve known since November that Tribune was planning to offer the top job to Peter Liguori, who’s best known for his years as an executive at Fox and Discovery. Now that Tribune has emerged from bankruptcy protection, it’s widely believed that the company will focus on its broadcast properties which include 23 television stations as it tries to unload its fleet of newspapers which include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and the Hartford Courant. Tribune Chairman Bruce Karsh, the co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management — a major stakeholder in the media company — calls Liguori “the ideal choice to be Tribune’s next Chief Executive Officer. He has the talent and experience to lead the company forward, and has a track record of success.” In a memo to staffers, Liguori said that he wants the broadcast properties to air “compelling, original programming and best-in-class local news.” And newspapers must provide readers with “the content they need and want, wherever they are and whenever they want it.” He looks to “accelerate our digital offerings and get paid for them” urging employees to do “more blogging, tweeting and recording to deepen our relationship with our audience.” He plans to meet with employees and urged them to “Please be candid and direct with me and I promise that I will actively listen to you….I am passionate about succeeding. I know you are too.”
Eddy Hartenstein had run the LA Times before May 2011 when he was picked to run Tribune as it struggled with its bankruptcy problems. The former DirecTV chief says he is “pleased that the Chapter 11 process is complete and we can all turn our full attention to growing our business and making this company as successful as possible.”
Here’s today’s release:
The biggest media industry bankruptcy ever will end today after four years with Tribune’s chief creditors — Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo, Gordon & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co – empowered to run the Chicago based broadcasting and newspaper power. The reorganization values the company at about $4.5B. The new management is expected to look for buyers for its assets which include 23 television stations and major metro dailies such as the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. The company will close on a $1.1B senior secured term loan, which will be used to pay off creditors, and a $300M asset based revolving credit facility to fund its operations. It also will have a new board that consists of CEO Eddy Hartenstein, Oaktree’s Bruce Karsh and Ken Liang, former Disney exec Peter Murphy, former Yahoo and News Corp exec Ross Levinsohn, lawyer Craig Jacobson, and former Fox and Discovery exec Peter Liguori. He’s widely believed to be in line to take the top job at Tribune. Today’s release says that the board will meet “in the next several weeks” and Hartenstein “will remain in his current role until that time.” The plan to emerge from bankruptcy ensures that creditors and vendors “will be receiving payment in full—100% recovery of what they are owed,” Hartenstein says. “These long-term relationships are very important to the company and we are pleased to be successfully resolving these obligations.” Tribune ran into trouble after 2007 when real estate …
This process should tell us whether the money people believe metropolitan dailies have much life left. Tribune, which is expected to emerge from bankruptcy protection at year end, is looking for a banker to help sell its eight newspapers which include the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg reports. Rupert Murdoch is known to be interested in those two papers as he prepares to split off News Corp‘s publishing operations — including The Wall Street Journal and New York Post — into a publicly traded company. Last week Murdoch said that WSJ Managing Editor Robert Thomson will run the publishing group, which will retain the News Corp name. (The company with the entertainment assets will be called Fox Group.) Thomson said he intends to “lead a broader revenue renaissance for quality content.” In addition to the Chicago and Los Angeles papers, Tribune owns the Baltimore Sun, Sun Sentinel of South Florida, The Orlando Sentinel, The Hartford Courant, The Morning Call, and The Daily Press. It also owns 23 television stations.
Former News Corp and Discovery Communications executive Peter Liguori is expected to be appointed CEO of Tribune now that the FCC approved the transfer of TV and radio licenses to the company’s new owners. The 24 licenses were the last hurdle for Tribune in emerging from bankruptcy. Liguori was selected by Tribune’s new owners, a creditors group led by Oaktree Capital, Gordon & Company and J.P. Morgan Chase, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Formal appointment of Liguori, currently an advisor to Carlyle Group, is expected to take place once Chicago-based Tribune emerges from bankruptcy and a new board is in place. Current Tribune CEO Eddy Hartenstein said the company expects to emerge from Chapter 11 “over the next several weeks”. Liguori’s experience at Fox’s FX Network, Fox Broadcasting and Discovery signals TV’s significance for Tribune’s future. Tribune’s 10 newspapers include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, and the company could decide to sell assets to stabilize finances. News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch is interested in the Times and Tribune and could make a move once News Corp splits newspapers away from its other media properties.
The FCC’s Media Bureau gave Tribune a permanent waiver so it can continue to own a TV station and newspaper in Chicago, and temporary ones so it can ignore the government’s cross-ownership restrictions in New York, Los Angeles, South Florida and Hartford. The decisions “will enable the company to continue moving forward toward emergence from Chapter 11, a process we expect to complete over the course of the next several weeks,” CEO Eddy Hartenstein says. It also could set a precedent if News Corp — which also owns TV stations in LA and Chicago — decides to buy the Los Angeles Times or Chicago Tribune. Tribune owns 23 TV stations and eight newspapers, and would like to sell some assets to stabilize its finances. Rupert Murdoch is intrigued by the possibility of picking up some major newspapers once News Corp splits its publishing operation off into a separate, publicly traded company.
The FCC is poised to decide whether to allowing Tribune Co. to retain control of TV stations and newspapers in five major markets, Bloomberg reports. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski recommends agency approval of Tribune’s license transfers as well as a plan to relax overall media cross-ownership rules in the top 20 markets. Tribune, which already has waivers for the stations in question, needs FCC approval to transfer the licenses to new ownership to emerge from bankruptcy. Those stations are in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, South Florida and Hartford, Conn. The broader proposal will allow common ownership of a daily newspaper and a TV station in the top 20 markets. The five-member commission could vote on Genachowski’s proposal for broad cross-ownership relief in coming days without meeting in public. Tribune transfers could take effect November 16 if no commissioner objects.
BETHPAGE, N.Y., OCTOBER 26, 2012 – Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) today announced that it has reached agreement with Tribune Company to return Tribune-owned stations to Cablevision, including WPIX in New York. Returning to Cablevision are WTIC, the exclusive source of FOX programming in about 50,000 Cablevision homes in Connecticut; WPIX (CW); WCCT (CW), carried in a small portion of Connecticut; KWGN (CW) carried in some Optimum West markets; WPHL (MyNetwork), carried in a small portion of New Jersey; and WGN, carried in a small portion of Cablevision’s Optimum West service area.
The former Fox Broadcasting president and Discovery Communications COO is a “leading candidate” to become Tribune‘s CEO after it emerges from bankruptcy, Reuters says. The wire service, citing two unnamed sources “close to the situation,” says that talks are in the late stages but could still fall apart. Peter Liguori would replace Eddy Hartenstein, who has been CEO of the newspaper and broadcast company since May 2011. But several things have to happen before Liguori could come aboard. Tribune needs FCC approval to transfer its 24 TV and radio station licenses to new owners before it can emerge from bankruptcy. The company has to assemble a new board of directors. Reuters also says that Liguori would have to be approved by Tribune’s biggest creditors: Oaktree Capital Management, JPMorgan Chase, and Angelo, Gordon & Co. Liguori left Discovery late last year after briefly stepping in to run its OWN joint venture with Oprah Winfrey. Since then he has joined the boards of Yahoo and MGM and agreed to consult for the Carlyle Group.
It’s official. A federal judge today confirmed a plan for Tribune Co. to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. Deadline reported last week that Judge Kevin Carey said he would sign an order approving the plan after final wording changes were made and that has now happened, according to the reports. Tribune owns 23 television stations and and eight daily newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and LA Times. The order will allow the Federal Communications Commission to move forward on the company’s application to transfer its TV and radio broadcast licenses to the new owners – a group of senior creditors led by the Los Angeles investment fund Oaktree Capital Management.