Tribune finally divides into two separate companies – introducing Tribune Publishing and Tribune Media
Meanwhile, WGN Radio sinks to historic ratings low
Say goodbye to the Tribune Company as you’ve known it for 66 years.
As of Monday, the entity has split into two companies: Tribune Publishing, which handled print, and Tribune Media, which handles television and radio – meaning the Chicago Tribune is no longer tethered to WGN-AM or WGN-TV. The newspaper launched the radio station in 1924 and the television station in 1948. The combination received a permanent waiver from the FCC in 1975 as they adapted new rules banning the ownership of a TV/radio station and a newspaper in the same market, a rule still in place today.
Recently, several companies have split their newspaper and television holdings – notably NewsCorp., Media General, and Scripps, which announced Thursday it purchased Journal Communications and was spinning off the newspapers into a separate company.
Tribune Publishing’s print properties include newspapers, including the flagship Chicago Tribune, TribLocal, Red Eye, The Mash, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant, Sun-Sentinel, and Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Publishing also includes Chicago Magazine, Hoy, and all websites related to those properties, plus stand alone sites ChicagoNow and Metromix. Jack Griffin was named the CEO of Tribune Publishing.
On Friday, the Chicago Tribune revamped its website mirroring the one the LA Times launched earlier this year, putting more articles – including the popular political blog Clout Street – behind paywalls in order to raise more revenue, which would go to pay down Tribune Publishing’s $490 million debt. The new look websites are expected to roll out gradually and all Tribune Publishing newspaper sites should sport them by year’s end.
Meanwhile, the TV/radio part of the company is now known as Tribune Media, consisting of Tribune’s 42 TV stations (including WGN-TV); Chicago local news channel CLTV; cable channel WGN America; diginets Antenna TV and This TV; WGN-AM; WGWG-LP; Tribune Studios; Tribune Digital (which runs WGN.FM); and Tribune Media Services. Tribune Media will also own all the real estate associated with its properties, including the Tribune Tower and the newspaper.
Also, Tribune Publishing is returning to the New York Stock Exchange for the first time since Sam Zell bought Tribune and took it private in 2008. Tribune Publishing is trading under the symbol TPUB.
Many challenges await both new companies in this new era. For Tribune Publishing, its trying to increase revenues at a time when traditional print media is struggling to turn a profit.
Meanwhile, Tribune Media has its own challenges – especially when it comes to its two Chicago radio stations. As the split became official Monday afternoon, July PPM numbers were released and showed WGN Radio reaching unprecedented lows in overall ratings – finishing in a tie with WGCI-FM and WKQX-FM for tenth place.
Outside of Steve Cochran’s morning show (which finished 3rd), the rest of the lineup is a disaster – notably Bill and Wendy’s afternoon show, which finished in a tie for 14th overall. By comparison, the show it replaced three months ago finished in a tie for 7th. No doubt GMs Jimmy DeCastro’s moves have sent WGN listeners fleeing for the exits.
And if you think that’s bad, a local message board reported Tuesday that WGN Radio barely cracked the top 25 in the 25-54 demo and finished outside the top 10 in the 35-64 one (or, so it said – take it with a grain of salt, since the writer “didn’t bother to post WGN’s numbers since they were so low.”)
Meanwhile, new sports talker The Game is still stalled at the starting gate with a 0.3 overall rating, down from 0.5 the previous month. To borrow a phrase from TV Media Insights’ Marc Berman, “Tick Tock, the cancellation clock (or in this case, the format flip clock) is ticking.”
Interesting to note WGN brought back the WGN Bird from 1986 on Twitter recently. Instead of a link to the WGN’s successful history, instead the creature has become the symbol of failure for the DeCastro regime thus far.
Both Tribune Publishing and Tribune Media have a lot of work to do.
Editor’s Note: Soon, there will be three tags separating Tribune: Tribune Publishing, Tribune Media (replacing Tribune Broadcasting and Tribune Entertainment) and Old Tribune, which covers… well, the old Tribune company. The Tribune tag is being retired. – T.H.