In today’s earnings call with analysts, CEO Peter Liguori says over the next three-to-five years, it intends to turn WGN America into a “robust” cable network that includes 52 weeks of original programming encompassing four one-hour episode series such as the current Salem and Manhattan. He adds that “in general, we see over the top as a tremendous opportunity. We look forward to discussions with new entrants willing to pay fair market value for our content.”
Is Tribune Media gunning to become the 5th network? Peter Liguori sure made it seem that way during this morning’s earnings conference call.
Third quarter financial performance was somewhat predictable, with retransmission revenues driving a 7% revenue increase amid weakness in national and local advertising.
But the call, the first since Tribune Co. spun off the publishing division in June and became Tribune Media, gave Liguori a platform for outlining Tribune’s plans.
Those plans prompted Edward Atorino of Benchmark Capital to comment: “Sounds like you’re a network.”
Liguori’s response: “We’re trying.”
WGN America, Liguori noted is pivotal to those plans. Tribune intends, over the next three-five years, to turn WGN America into a “robust” cable network that includes 52 weeks of original programming encompassing four one-hour episode series such as the current Salem and Manhattan.
He noted, however, that Tribune is not looking to program two hours of primetime programming five nights a week.
Citing Tribune’s diverse portfolio, which includes a station group with more than 40% coverage of the U.S., WGN America, Tribune Studios, a real-estate division and a substantial stake in the Food Network, Liguori said it’s a “misnomer” to call Tribune a pure-play broadcaster.
Sounding a lot like CBS boss Les Moonves, Liguori said a key initiative at Tribune is to monetize its content over multiple platforms and internationally.
“In general, we see over the top as a tremendous opportunity,” he said. “We look forward to discussions with new entrants willing to pay fair market value for our content.”
He called Tribune’s contract with Hulu to deliver Manhattan OTT “a great deal.”
“One of the things we’re trying to do with original programming let success build on success,” he said. “Given my history, I know programming is expensive. We want to participate in digital streaming. We will participate in foreign sales and opportunities for syndication.”
Commenting on Fox Network’s threat to pull its affiliation from Tribune’s KCPQ in Seattle which the two sides resolved in October with Tribune agreeing to pay higher programming fees, Liguori said: “Reason and partnership won out.”
He also noted that while Tribune currently pays more in network compensation than it receives in retrans fees, the company anticipates that will flip-flop over the next three years as Tribune consummates negotiations with MVPDs encompassing 50% of Tribune’s coverage footprint.
Because of Tribune’s enhanced scale, “today we’re in a position to negotiate fair retransmission fees and fair programming fees with our network partners,” he said.