Tribune latest media company to do the split

Tribune-Tower-Chicago-1924The Tribune Co. announced Wednesday it was splitting its publishing properties from the rest of the company’s assets, becoming the latest media conglomerate to do so.

The new company is being named Tribune Publishing Co., and consists of the Chicago Tribune, Red Eye, Hoy, Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel, Sun-Sentinel (Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area), Hartford Courant, Morning Call, and Daily Press.

The separate Tribune Co. would consist of all the non-publishing assets of the company, including WGN Radio, WGN America, Career Builder, and WGN-TV and 41 other TV stations, including those from its recent purchase of Local TV.

In a statement, Tribune Co. CEO Peter Ligouri said the following: “Moving to separate our publishing and broadcasting assets into two distinct companies 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.”

Coming fresh off a four-year stint in bankruptcy, Tribune was looking for a way to maximize shareholder value while positioning the company’s long-term growth.

Tribune has become the latest media company to split its publishing and entertainment assets; News Corp. announced a similar split last year, with its non-publishing assets now under the separately traded name of 21st Century Fox (though its network TV and syndication units are keeping the Twentieth name.)

Splitting the newspapers off from the rest of Tribune doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be sold; the unit remains for sale and if the publishing assets are sold under the spun-off company, Tribune would not have to face a hefty tax bill.

These recent developments may also question the justification of the FCC’s cross-ownership rules. Since 1975, the rule prohibited media companies from owning a newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same market unless grandfathered in (like Tribune was) or if a waiver is granted.  The industry has been trying to get those rules relaxed ever since, especially with the growth of the Internet.

With Tribune and News Corp. separating their publishing assets away from its entertainment assets, the only true newspaper-radio-TV combos left in major markets would be Cox’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WSB-TV, WSB-AM/FM and a few other Atlanta radio stations; and Gannett’s combo of KPNX-TV and The Arizona Republic in Phoenix.