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Tribune Media CEO Peter Liguori said Tuesday that one of his priorities is transitioning WGN America from a superstation into a basic cable channel. He also said he’ll file SEC paperwork at the end of the month so that the company can trade on “a major exchange” rather than over the counter.
Liguori also made no promises about continuing a 70-year relationship with the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball team. Tribune’s WGN reportedly pays about $250,000 per game for broadcast rights to Cubs games, but the team wants twice that after the current deal runs out at the end of the season.
WGN will stick with the Cubs if it can strike a deal “on economic terms,” Liguori said at the Bank of America 2014 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills.
As for WGNA, Liguori said its two original shows, Salem and Manhattan, are bringing in viewers who are new to the channel. In three to four years, WGNA should have four original series on the air with budgets similar to what FX and AMC spends on their shows. A show tentatively called Titans is in the pipeline, as is a miniseries called Underground that could become a regular series.
He said Tribune is “investing a fair amount of money” in WGNA. “Clearly, what we’re doing is enhancing the brand.”
Liguori said he is open to merger and acquisition opportunities, and to selling Tribune’s minority share of the Food Network, which it owns with Scripps Networks Interactive.
The CEO also said diversification is a priority, and he discussed as possible areas of expansion video games, sports, international opportunities and real estate. Along those lines, Tribune announced earlier Tuesday its intention to redevelop seven acres along Chicago’s riverfront.
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