Tribune Broadcasting

Tribune Broadcasting Company
Genre Media company
  • WGN Incorporated
  • (1924–1966)
  • WGN Continental Broadcasting Company
  • (1966–1981)
Founded 1981 (1981) in Chicago, Illinois, United States
Headquarters 435 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, United States
Area served
United States
Key people
Parent Tribune Media

Tribune Broadcasting (corporate name: Tribune Broadcasting Company, LLC) is an American media company which operates as a subsidiary of Tribune Media, a media conglomerate based in Chicago, Illinois. The group owns and/or operates 43 broadcast television stations and one radio station throughout the United States; it also holds full or partial ownership of three cable television and two national digital subchannel networks.


Tribune Broadcasting logo used from 1995 to August 4, 2014.

Tribune Broadcasting's development originated with the June 1924 purchase of Chicago, Illinois radio station WDAP (720 AM) by the Chicago Tribune. The new owners changed the station's call letters to WGN, to match the Tribune's slogan, "World's Greatest Newspaper." The Tribune would launch a television station in Chicago, WGN-TV (channel 9), in April 1948 as a dual affiliate of CBS and the DuMont Television Network. Two months later, the Tribune's then-sibling newspaper in New York City, the Daily News, established its own television station, WPIX (channel 11) – which launched without a network affiliation as all four broadcast networks at the time (ABC, NBC, CBS and DuMont) had already owned other stations in the market.

During the next six decades, Tribune Broadcasting (known originally as WGN, Incorporated, and from 1966[1] to 1981[2] as WGN Continental Broadcasting Company) would acquire radio and television stations throughout the United States; most of the television properties acquired by the company prior to 1995 were independent stations. WGN-TV and WPIX are the only stations that Tribune has owned since their inceptions. Tribune also operated several local cable television systems from 1977 to 1985.

In 1993, Tribune launched Chicagoland Television (CLTV), a regional cable news channel for the Chicago area, which originally operated separately from the company's other Chicago media properties until it merged its operations with WGN-TV's news department in 2009. In November 1994, Tribune Broadcasting formed a partnership with several minority partners, including Quincy Jones, to form Qwest Broadcasting; Qwest operated as a technically separate company from Tribune (which owned stations in a few markets where Tribune owned stations, including WATL in Atlanta, which was operated alongside Tribune-owned WGNX);[3] Tribune would later acquire the Qwest stations outright in November 1999.[4]

From January 1995 to September 2006, Tribune Broadcasting was a partner in The WB Television Network, in a joint venture with the Warner Bros. Television division of Time Warner.[5] Tribune initially had a 12.5% ownership interest in the network at its launch and later increased its stake to 22%; in addition, partly as a result of a November 1993 affiliation deal with the network, most of Tribune's television properties were WB affiliates. On July 2, 1996, Tribune acquired Renaissance Broadcasting, which owned Fox- and WB-affiliated stations in several large and mid-sized markets.[6] On January 24, 2006, Time Warner announced that it would partner with CBS Corporation to form a new network that would feature The WB and CBS-owned UPN's higher-rated shows mixed with newer series, called The CW Television Network. All but three of Tribune's 19 WB affiliates (including three that were sold off to other companies later that year) became affiliates of The CW on September 18, 2006, through ten-year agreements (the exceptions were in Philadelphia, Seattle and Atlanta, due to The CW affiliating with CBS-owned stations in those markets), though Tribune itself would not exercise an ownership stake in The CW as it did with The WB.[7]

In April 2007, Tribune's broadcasting interests were included in the sale of the entire company to Chicago investor Sam Zell, who planned take the publicly traded company private. The deal was completed on December 20, 2007.[8]

On December 21, 2007, Tribune and Oak Hill Capital Partners-controlled Local TV, LLC announced plans to collaborate in the formation of a "broadcast management company" (later named The Other Company); its Tribune Interactive division also operated the websites of its stations as part of the partnership.[9][10][11]

On December 8, 2008, Tribune announced that it would voluntarily restructure its debt obligations, as part of its filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court. As the company had sufficient funds to do so, Tribune continued to operate its newspaper publishing and broadcasting, and interactive businesses without interruption during the restructuring.[12]

On January 1, 2011, Tribune launched the digital broadcast network Antenna TV, a service that features a variety of classic television series, including programming from Sony Pictures Television and D.L. Taffner Entertainment.[13] On May 13, 2013, Tribune announced that it would buy a 50% stake in the This TV digital broadcast network from fellow Chicago-based media company Weigel Broadcasting; Tribune took over operational duties for the network on November 1, 2013.[14]

On July 1, 2013, Tribune announced that it would purchase the 19 stations owned by Local TV, LLC outright for $2.725 billion; the purchase expanded the number of Big Three network affiliates in its portfolio from one to 10 (most of Tribune's television stations prior to the purchase had either been independent stations or from 1995 onward, affiliates of networks that have launched since 1986; New Orleans station WGNO (channel 26) – an ABC affiliate – was Tribune's only station affiliated with one of the three pre-1986 networks prior to the purchase), as well as form duopolies involving stations in Denver and St. Louis where the two companies maintained local marketing agreements.[15] In order to prevent conflicts with newspaper cross-ownership restrictions (specifically, with Daily Press and The Morning Call), three stations involved in the acquisition – the Norfolk, Virginia duopoly of WTKR (channel 3) and WGNT (channel 27), and Scranton, Pennsylvania station WNEP-TV (channel 16) – were sold to Dreamcatcher Broadcasting and are operated by Tribune under shared services agreements (Tribune has an option to purchase WNEP after the publishing/broadcasting split,[16] although such a transfer may be complicated by possible FCC action on a proposal to end a "discount" in television station ownership limits that count UHF stations to half a percentage to a group's overall market reach, which would put Tribune just over the current limit of 39%, under which the company's current station holdings after the Local TV purchase would be grandfathered[17]). The Federal Communications Commission approved the acquisition on December 20,[18] and the sale was completed one week later on December 27.[19]

On February 29, 2016, Tribune Media announced that it would review various "strategic alternatives" to increase the company's value to shareholders, which include a possible sale of the entire company and/or select assets, or the formation of programming alliances or strategic partnerships with other companies, due to the decrease in its stock price since the Tribune Publishing spin-off and a $385 million revenue write-down for the 2015 fiscal year, partly due to original scripted programming expenditures for WGN America since it converted the cable network from a superstation in 2014.[20][21][22][23]

Television production and distribution

Tribune Entertainment

Main article: Tribune Entertainment

Tribune Entertainment was Tribune's television production, syndication and advertising sales subsidiary. Founded in 1981, this subsidiary produced and/or distributed several first-run syndicated programs including most notably Geraldo, Soul Train and the U.S. Farm Report; Tribune Entertainment's production and syndication divisions were shut down in December 2007.

Tribune Studios

On March 19, 2013, Tribune Company announced its return to television production with the formation of Tribune Studios (not to be confused with the Los Angeles studio facility that formerly held the same name until its sale by Tribune to private equity firm Hudson Capital in 2008, and was subsequently renamed Sunset Bronson Studios). The new company will produce programs primarily for Tribune Broadcasting's television stations and WGN America, some of which will receive national distribution.[24]

Tribune-owned stations

As of April 2015, Tribune Broadcasting currently owns 39 television stations located in 33 markets (including eight duopolies). 31 of its stations are affiliated with each of the current post-1986 broadcast networks: 14 are affiliated with Fox (not counting a satellite station of KDVR), 12 with The CW and three with MyNetworkTV. In addition, the company owns five CBS affiliates (not counting a satellite of WTTV), two ABC affiliates, two NBC affiliates and one independent station. It also provides operational services to three stations (one ABC affiliate, one CBS affiliate and one CW affiliate – the latter two are also operated as part of a duopoly) in the respective markets of Norfolk-Hampton Roads-Newport News, Virginia and Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania through shared services agreements with Dreamcatcher Broadcasting.

Tribune also owns WGN America, a basic cable/satellite channel that operated as a superstation feed of flagship station WGN-TV until December 2014 (one of four superstations owned by Tribune, along with remaining Tribune superstations KTLA, KWGN-TV and WPIX); the Chicago-based regional cable news channel Chicagoland Television (CLTV); and maintains a 30% ownership interest in Food Network (the remaining controlling interest in that channel is held by Scripps Networks Interactive).

WGN Radio is the company's sole remaining radio station, and serves as the flagship station for a regional distribution service known as the Tribune Radio Network.[25] its primary features are farm reports from longtime WGN agriculture broadcasters Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong. Tribune Radio Network formerly handled distribution of the Chicago Cubs Radio Network to its affiliates until the 2014 season, when the Cubs radio broadcasts in Chicago moved to WBBM radio in 2015; as a result, affiliate distribution of the Chicago Cubs Radio Network to its partner stations is now handled by CBS Radio. WGN also maintains a second online-only service known as WGN.FM (alternately known as "The G").

Television stations

Stations are listed alphabetically by state and city of license.


City of license / Market Station Channel
Owned Since Primary Affiliation
Huntsville - Decatur, AL WHNT-TV ++ 19 (19) 2013 CBS
Fort Smith - Fayetteville, AR KFSM-TV ++ 5 (18) 2013 CBS
KXNW ++ 34 (34) 2013 MyNetworkTV
Los Angeles KTLA 5 (31) 1985 The CW
Sacramento - Stockton - Modesto KTXL ¤¤ 40 (40) 1997 Fox
San Diego KSWB-TV 69 (19) 1996 Fox
Denver KWGN-TV 2 (34) 1966 The CW
KDVR ++ 31 (32) 2013 Fox
Fort Collins, Colorado KFCT ++
(satellite of KDVR)
22 (21) 2013 Fox
Hartford - New Haven, CT WTIC-TV ¤¤ 61 (31) 1997 Fox
Waterbury, Connecticut WCCT-TV 20 (20) 2001 The CW
Washington, D.C. WDCW 50 (50) 1999 The CW
Miami - Fort Lauderdale WSFL-TV ¤¤ 39 (19) 1997 The CW
Chicago WGN-TV ** 9 (19) 1948 Independent
Moline, Illinois (Quad Cities) WQAD-TV ++ 8 (38) 2013 ABC
Bloomington, Indiana WTTV ¤¤ 4 (48) 2002 CBS
Indianapolis WXIN 59 (45) 1997 Fox
Kokomo, Indiana WTTK
(satellite of WTTV)
29 (29) 2002 CBS
Des Moines WHO-DT ++ 13 (13) 2013 NBC
New Orleans WGNO 26 (26) 1983 ABC
WNOL-TV 38 (15) 1999 The CW
Grand Rapids - Battle Creek -
Kalamazoo, MI
WXMI 17 (19) 1998 Fox
Kansas City, Missouri WDAF-TV ++ 4 (34) 2013 Fox
St. Louis KTVI ++ 2 (43) 2013 Fox
KPLR-TV 11 (26) 2003 The CW
New York City WPIX ** 11 (11) 1948 The CW
High Point - Greensboro -
WGHP ++ 8 (35) 2013 Fox
Cleveland - Akron WJW ++ 8 (8) 2013 Fox
Oklahoma City KFOR-TV ++ 4 (27) 2013 NBC
KAUT-TV ++ 43 (40) 2013 Independent
Salem - Portland, OR KRCW-TV 32 (33) 2003 The CW
Philadelphia WPHL-TV 17 (17) 1992 MyNetworkTV
Scranton - Wilkes Barre WNEP-TV ++ ‡‡ 16 (50) 2013 ABC
York - Harrisburg -
Lancaster - Lebanon, PA
WPMT ¤¤ 43 (47) 1997 Fox
Memphis WREG-TV ++ 3 (28) 2013 CBS
Dallas - Fort Worth KDAF ¤¤ 33 (32) 1997 The CW
Houston KIAH 39 (38) 1995 The CW
Salt Lake City KSTU ++ 13 (28) 2013 Fox
Norfolk - Portsmouth, VA
(Hampton Roads)
WTKR ++ ‡‡ 3 (40) 2013 CBS
WGNT ++ ‡‡ 27 (50) 2013 The CW
Richmond WTVR-TV ++ 6 (25) 2013 CBS
Tacoma - Seattle KCPQ 13 (13) 1999 Fox
KZJO 22 (25) 1998 MyNetworkTV
Milwaukee WITI ++ 6 (33) 2013 Fox

Radio stations

AM Station FM Station
City of license/Market Station/
Owned since Current format
Chicago WGN–720 1924 Talk
Milwaukee WMIL-FM HD3 1 WITI-TV audio


Former Tribune-owned stations

Stations are arranged by state and city of license.

Television stations

City of license / Market Station Channel
Years owned Current ownership status
Atlanta WGNX 46 (19) 1983–1999 CBS affiliate, WGCL-TV, owned by Meredith Corporation
WATL 36 (25) 1999–2006 MyNetworkTV affiliate owned by Tegna, Inc.
Cambridge - Boston, MA WLVI-TV 56 (41) 1994–2006 The CW affiliate owned by Sunbeam Television
Duluth, MN - Superior, WI KDAL-TV 3 (33) 1960–1978 CBS affiliate, KDLH, owned by SagamoreHill Broadcasting
(Operated under LMA by Quincy Media)
Schenectady - Albany - Troy, NY WCWN 45 (43) 1999–2006 The CW affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group

Radio stations

AM Stations FM Stations
City of license/Market Station/
Years owned Current ownership
Sacramento KGNR-1320
(now KIFM)
1975–1996 Entercom Communications
(now KYMX)
1975–1996 CBS Radio
Denver – Boulder KEZW-1430 Entercom Communications
(now KQMT)
Entercom Communications
KOSI-101.1 Entercom Communications
Bridgeport, Connecticut WICC-600 1967–1989 Cumulus Media
Chicago WFMT-98.7 1968–1970 Window to the World Communications
(now WRME-LP)
1 1
Duluth, MN - Superior, WI KDAL-610 1960–1981 Midwest Communications
New York City WPIX-FM/WQCD-101.9
(now WFAN-FM)
1963–1997 CBS Radio


Carriage controversies

April 2012 DirecTV dispute

At midnight ET on April 1, 2012, Tribune's carriage agreement with DirecTV ended, resulting in all 23 Tribune Broadcasting-owned stations and WGN America to be pulled from the satellite provider at midnight in the respective time zones of the markets carrying the broadcast stations. Tribune was seeking retransmission consent payments from DirecTV, which under previous carriage agreements, the company received for carriage of WGN America, but not for its local broadcast stations.[31] On April 3, 2012, DirecTV filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission claiming that Tribune Company representatives had negotiated in bad faith and that the company had inappropriately transferred control over its broadcast licenses to its bankruptcy creditors.[32] The dispute lasted four days, ending on April 5, 2012, when the two companies reached a new carriage agreement for the Tribune Broadcasting stations and WGN America (the stations were restored to DirecTV subscribers at 9:00 p.m. ET that evening); DirecTV's complaint to the FCC against Tribune was dropped as part of the agreement.[33]

August 2012 Cablevision dispute

At midnight Eastern Time on August 16, 2012, Tribune's carriage agreement with Cablevision expired, resulting in New York City's WPIX, Hartford's WCCT-TV and Philadelphia's WPHL-TV being pulled from Cablevision systems in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Additionally, KWGN-TV was pulled from Optimum West systems in Colorado and Wyoming (which were sold to Charter Communications in 2013).[34] Cablevision accused Tribune of demanding higher carriage fees (that Cablevision claimed totaled in the tens of millions of dollars) to be used to help pay off debt, and alleged that it illegally bundled carriage agreements for WPIX and Hartford's WTIC-TV (which was initially unaffected, unlike sister station WCCT, due to a separate carriage agreement but was later pulled from Cablevision's Connecticut systems as well), which the company denied, stating its approach complied with FCC regulations.[35] The stations and WGN America (which was also dropped due to the dispute) were restored through a new carriage agreement that was reached on October 26, following a plea by Connecticut State Senator Gayle Slossberg for the FCC to intervene in the dispute.[36]

June 2016 DISH dispute

Tribune's carriage agreement with DISH and Tribune-affiliated ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, & NBC over-the-air stations expired on June 12, 2016.[37]

"Unable to come to terms on a new distribution agreement, Tribune Media Co. said its 42 television stations and the WGN America cable channel had gone dark on satellite broadcaster Dish Network Corp. Approximately 5 million Dish subscribers in 33 markets across 34 states and the District of Columbia lost access to local TV stations owned by Tribune late Sunday. About 7 million aren’t receiving the WGN America network.

At issue are fees Tribune is seeking for carriage of its stations and WGN America. In a statement, Dish Network said Tribune was demanding an unreasonable price increase for its local channels, which are available free with an antenna. In addition, an increase for WGN America isn’t warranted because the channel no longer carries Chicago Cubs games and its ratings are down in Dish homes, the satellite broadcaster said.

“Tribune is using local viewers as leverage to raise rates for WGN America—a channel that is in decline,” said Warren Schlichting, executive vice president of programming for Dish.

Dish has offered to provide free antennas to its customers so they can receive the Tribune television stations. Tribune owns or operates 42 stations in many of the nation’s biggest markets including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Many of its stations are affiliated with the CW Network but it also owns affiliates of CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox.

Tribune said the deal it offered Dish was the same one it has with other pay-TV distributors. ”Dish refuses to reach an agreement based on fair-market value,” said Tribune Media spokesman Gary Weitman.

Both companies said they were willing to extend the current agreement but neither side could even agree on terms for that.

Such fights over distribution fees have become commonplace in the television industry. Tribune has been seeking increases for WGN America as part of its plan to transition the channel from one that was highly dependent on reruns and Chicago sports to a network with lots of original programming that can compete with channels such as FX and AMC."[38]

On September 3, tribune and dish came to a long term agreement ending the 3 month long dispute.

June 12,2016-September 3,2016.


  1. "KWGN(TV) starts with a bang." Broadcasting, March 14, 1966, pg. 58.
  2. "In brief." Broadcasting, November 14, 1980, pg. 34
  3. Tribune, minority group on TV station Qwest; new company's first buys are WATL-TV Atlanta and WNOL-TV New Orleans, Broadcasting & Cable, November 21, 1994. Retrieved July 20, 2013 from HighBeam Research.
  4. BREAKFAST BRIEFING // CHICAGO, Chicago Sun-Times, November 10, 1999. Retrieved July 23, 2013 from HighBeam Research.
  5. Tribune Broadcasting Joins with Warner Bros. to Launch Fifth Television Network, Retrieved 12-10-2010.
  6. Tribune Co. Looks to Boost Role in TV with Offer for Six Stations, Los Angeles Daily News, July 2, 1996. Retrieved July 20, 2013 from HighBeam Research.
  7. UPN and WB to Combine, Forming New TV Network, The New York Times, January 24, 2006.
  8. Zell buys Tribune Co., Cubs to be sold, CNNMoney, April 3, 2007. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
  9. "Tribune Interactive, Schurz in Web Deal". TVNewsCheck. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  10. Radio Daze: Tribune Gang Sets Out to Reinvent TV, Broadcasting & Cable, April 13, 2008.
  11. "Tribune and Local TV to Form Broadcast Management Company" (Press release). Tribune Company. 2007-12-20. Retrieved 2007-12-21.
  12. "Tribune Company to Voluntarily Restructure Debt Under Chapter 11" (Press release). Tribune Company. 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2008-12-08. Tribune Company to Voluntarily Restructure Debt Under Chapter 11. Publishing, Interactive and Broadcasting Businesses to Continue Operations. Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field Not Part of Chapter 11 Filing; Monetization Efforts to Continue
  13. Albiniak, Paige (August 30, 2010). "Tribune Launching Classic TV Multicast Network". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  14. Malone, Michael (May 14, 2013). "Tribune Replaces Weigel As Partner on This TV". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  15. "Acquisition to make Tribune Co. largest U.S. TV station operator". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  16. "Tribune to Put Local TV's WNEP Scranton, Norfolk Stations Up for Sale". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  17. FCC expected to propose dropping UHF discount from TV ownership caps, Los Angeles Times, September 25, 2013.
  18. FCC OKs Tribune Co.'s agreement to buy Local TV Holdings, Crain's Chicago Business, December 20, 2013.
  19. Company Completes Final Steps of Transaction Announced in July, Tribune Company, 27 December, 2013
  20. Steinberg, Brian (February 29, 2016). "Tribune Media to Explore Sale of Company or Assets, Takes $385 Million Write-Down". Variety. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  21. Lieberman, David (February 29, 2016). "Tribune Media Hangs Up "For Sale" Sign With Hiring Of Financial Advisers". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
  22. Jessell, Harry (March 4, 2016). "Is This The End Of Tribune Broadcasting?". TV News Check. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
  23. Lieberman, David (March 4, 2016). "Tribune Media's Cash Search Shouldn't Affect CW Negotiations, Analysts Say". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
  24. Tribune Re-Launching Studio With Matt Cherniss at Helm, Broadcasting & Cable, March 19, 2013.
  25. Tribune Radio Network website
  26. Accord puts Channel 6 weather, news on Clear Channel radio stations
  27. Feder, Robert (December 30, 2014). "Weigel Broadcasting to become radio active on 87.7 FM". Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  28. Channick, Robert. "WGN-AM to simulcast on 87.7 FM for one more month". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
  29. Channick, Robert (February 9, 2015). "MeTV launching radio station at 87.7 FM". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  30. Channick, Robert (February 17, 2014). "WGN launching FM sports talk station 'The Game'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  31. Subscribers to lose programming after Tribune Broadcasting fails to agree on settlement with DirecTV, Fox News Channel (via the Associated Press), April 1, 2012.
  32. DirecTV files FCC complaint against Tribune, Crain's Chicago Business, April 2, 2012.
  33. Tribune Co. reaches deal with DirecTV -- in time for Cubs opener, Chicago Tribune, April 5, 2012.
  34. Tribune stations go dark on Cablevision, Variety, August 16, 2012.
  35. Spangler, Tom (17 August 2012). "Cablevision Charges Tribune With 'Illegally Tying' Stations Deals; Broadcaster Says Its Approach Is Lawful and Complies with FCC Good-Faith Rules". Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  36. Cablevision, Tribune end retrans spat, Variety, October 26, 2012.
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