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.
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:
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:
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 …
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 …
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.
A federal bankruptcy judge today approved Tribune Co.‘s plan to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After overruling one objection and persuading a creditor to withdraw another, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey said he would sign an order approving the plan after final wording changes were made. Tribune owns 23 television stations and and eight daily newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. The company will now seek Federal Communications Commission approval for the new owners — banks and hedge funds including Oaktree Capital Group, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Angelo Gordon & Co. Without the FCC’s permission and transfer of station broadcast licenses to the new owners, Tribune can’t execute its restructuring plan. Depending on how long that process takes, some believe Tribune could emerge from bankruptcy as early as August. Tribune filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008.