‘Tribune of the future’ takes shape

Tribune Co.With completion Friday of its $2.7 billion acquisition of Local TV Holdings, Tribune Co. begins the new year as the largest independent broadcast group and content creator in the United States.

The Los Angeles Times, also owned by Tribune Co., called the move “an important first step in the company’s evolution from a company dependent on dwindling revenue from its newspapers and into a formidable broadcast group that reaches an estimated 50 million U.S. homes.” The company plans to shift its newspaper unit, including the Chicago Tribune, to a separate company in 2014.

The addition of Local TV’s 19 stations in 16 markets brings to 39 the number of television stations Tribune Co. owns nationwide, including 14 Fox affiliates, 14 CW affiliates, five CBS affiliates, three ABC affiliates and two NBC affiliates. It also makes Tribune Co. the largest Fox affiliate group in the country.

Peter Liguori

Peter Liguori

“The increase in scale of Tribune broadcasting promises to enhance every aspect of our business including our relationships with programmers, advertisers, and cable and satellite partners,” Peter Liguori, president and CEO of Tribune Co., told employees in an email Friday.

“However, what most excites me is not the sheer size of our broadcasting operation, but the possibilities it affords us. As our industry continues to evolve, we will be in a position to work together to define the Tribune of the future.”

To comply with FCC ownership regulations, Tribune Co. agreed to spin off three stations for $27 million to Dreamcatcher Broadcasting, owned by former Tribune Broadcasting president Ed Wilson. Tribune Broadcasting will operate the stations in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Norfolk, Virginia, under a shared services agreement.

In an unrelated move last week, Tribune Co. announced plans to buy Gracenote, a global provider of music technology and metadata, from Sony Corp. of America for $170 million.

Tribune Co. will combine Gracenote with Tribune Media Services to create one of the largest entertainment metadata companies in the world. “This transaction extends and complements TMS’ best-in-class core competency in the metadata business, while also deepening Tribune’s slate of subscription services,” Liguori said in a statement.