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Tribune Broadcasting

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 Company
GenreMedia company
  • WGN Incorporated
  • (1924–1966)
  • WGN Continental Broadcasting Company
  • (1966–1981)
Founded1981; 37 years ago (1981) in Chicago, Illinois, United States
Headquarters515 North State Street, Chicago, Illinois, United States[1]
Area served
United States
Key people
DivisionsTribune Studios



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 (which it would remain so until 1953, when CBS acquired WBBM-TV and moved its affiliation there). 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[2] to 1981[3] 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);[4] Tribune would later acquire the Qwest stations outright in November 1999.[5]

In January 1995, Tribune Broadcasting became a partner in The WB Television Network, in a joint venture with the Warner Bros. Television division of Time Warner.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10][11][12]

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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16] 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,[17] 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[18]). The Federal Communications Commission approved the acquisition on December 20,[19] and the sale was completed one week later on December 27.[20]

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.[21][22][23][24]

With the FCC reinstating the "UHF discount" rule, reports surfaced in late April 2017 that multiple parties were attempting to make offers for Tribune, including Sinclair Broadcast Group, Nexstar Media Group, and a partnership between 21st Century Fox and Blackstone Group.[25][26][27][28] On May 7, 2017, it was reported that Sinclair Broadcast Group was nearing a deal to purchase Tribune Media,[29][30] and that 21st Century Fox had dropped its bid for the company.[31][32]

On May 8, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group officially announced its intent to acquire Tribune Media. The transaction would have been a cash-and-stock deal valuing the company at $3.9 billion. Depending on regulatory changes or decisions, some divestitures might have been required.[33] However, on August 9, 2018, Tribune canceled the Sinclair deal.[34]

Television production and distributionEdit

Tribune EntertainmentEdit

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 StudiosEdit

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.[35]

Tribune-owned stationsEdit

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.

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.[36] 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, then WSCR in 2016; as a result, affiliate distribution of the Chicago Cubs Radio Network to its partner stations is now handled by Entercom. WGN also maintains a second online-only service known as WGN.FM (alternately known as "The G").

Television stationsEdit

Stations are listed alphabetically by state and city of license.


  • (**) – Indicates a station that was built and signed-on by Tribune.
  • (¤¤) – Indicates a station owned by Renaissance Broadcasting prior to its acquisition by Tribune in 1997. KDVR and WCCT (as WTXX) were divested by Renaissance years prior, only to be acquired by Tribune in future acquisitions.
  • (++) – Indicates a station owned by Local TV LLC prior to its acquisition by Tribune in 2013.
  • (‡‡) – Indicates a station owned by Dreamcatcher Broadcasting, LLC, Tribune operates these stations through shared services agreements.
City of license / Market Station Channel
Owned since Primary affiliation
HuntsvilleDecatur, Alabama WHNT-TV ++ 19 (19) 2013 CBS
Fort SmithFayetteville, Arkansas KFSM-TV ++ 5 (18) 2013 CBS
KXNW ++ 34 (34) 2013 MyNetworkTV
Los Angeles, California KTLA 5 (31) 1985 The CW
SacramentoStocktonModesto, California KTXL ¤¤ 40 (40) 1997 Fox
San Diego, California KSWB-TV 69 (19) 1996 Fox
Denver, Colorado KWGN-TV 2 (34) 1966 The CW
KDVR ++ 31 (32) 2013 Fox
Fort Collins, Colorado KFCT ++
(satellite of KDVR)
22 (21) 2013 Fox
HartfordNew Haven, Connecticut WTIC-TV ¤¤ 61 (31) 1997 Fox
Waterbury, Connecticut WCCT-TV 20 (20) 2001 The CW
Washington, D.C. WDCW 50 (50) 1999 The CW
MiamiFort Lauderdale, Florida WSFL-TV ¤¤ 39 (19) 1997 The CW
Chicago, Illinois WGN-TV ** 9 (19) 1948 Independent
Moline, Illinois (Quad Cities) WQAD-TV ++ 8 (38) 2013 ABC
Bloomington, Indiana WTTV ¤¤ 4 (48) 2002 CBS
Indianapolis, Indiana WXIN 59 (45) 1997 Fox
Kokomo, Indiana WTTK
(satellite of WTTV)
29 (29) 2002 CBS
Des Moines, Iowa WHO-DT ++ 13 (13) 2013 NBC
New Orleans, Louisiana WGNO 26 (26) 1983 ABC
WNOL-TV 38 (15) 1999 The CW
Grand RapidsBattle Creek -
Kalamazoo, Michigan
WXMI 17 (19) 1998 Fox
Kansas City, Missouri WDAF-TV ++ 4 (34) 2013 Fox
St. Louis, Missouri KTVI ++ 2 (43) 2013 Fox
KPLR-TV 11 (26) 2003 The CW
New York, New York WPIX ** 11 (11) 1948 The CW
High PointGreensboro -
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
WGHP ++ 8 (35) 2013 Fox
ClevelandAkron, Ohio WJW ++ 8 (8) 2013 Fox
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma KFOR-TV ++ 4 (27) 2013 NBC
KAUT-TV ++ 43 (40) 2013 Independent
SalemPortland, OR KRCW-TV 32 (33) 2003 The CW
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania WPHL-TV 17 (17) 1992 MyNetworkTV
ScrantonWilkes Barre,


WNEP-TV ++ ‡‡ 16 (50) 2013 ABC
YorkHarrisburg -
LancasterLebanon, PA
WPMT ¤¤ 43 (47) 1997 Fox
Memphis, Tennessee WREG-TV ++ 3 (28) 2013 CBS
DallasFort Worth, Texas KDAF ¤¤ 33 (32) 1997 The CW
Houston, Texas KIAH 39 (38) 1995 The CW
Salt Lake City, Utah KSTU ++ 13 (28) 2013 Fox
NorfolkPortsmouth, Virginia
(Hampton Roads)
WTKR ++ ‡‡ 3 (40) 2013 CBS
WGNT ++ ‡‡ 27 (50) 2013 The CW
Richmond, Virginia WTVR-TV ++ 6 (25) 2013 CBS
TacomaSeattle, Washington KCPQ 13 (13) 1999 Fox
KZJO 22 (25) 1998 MyNetworkTV
Milwaukee, Wisconsin WITI ++ 6 (33) 2013 Fox

Radio stationsEdit

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


Former Tribune-owned stationsEdit

Stations are arranged by state and city of license.

Television stationsEdit

City of license / Market Station Channel
Years owned Current ownership status
Atlanta, Georgia WGNX 46 (19) 1983–1999 CBS affiliate, WGCL-TV, owned by Meredith Corporation
WATL 36 (25) 1999–2006 MyNetworkTV affiliate owned by Tegna, Inc.
CambridgeBoston, Massachusetts WLVI-TV 56 (41) 1994–2006 The CW affiliate owned by Sunbeam Television
Duluth, MinnesotaSuperior, Wisconsin KDAL-TV 3 (33) 1960–1978 The CW affiliate, KDLH, owned by Quincy Media
SchenectadyAlbanyTroy, New York WCWN 45 (43) 1999–2006 The CW affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group

Radio stationsEdit

AM Stations FM Stations
City of license/Market Station/
Years owned Current ownership
Sacramento, California KGNR-1320
(now KIFM)
1975–1996 owned by Entercom
(now KYMX)
1975–1996 owned by TDC Communications
(operated by Bonneville International under a local marketing agreement)
DenverBoulder, Colorado KEZW-1430 1993–2002 owned by Entercom
(now KQMT)
1995–2002 owned by Entercom
KOSI-101.1 1993–2002 owned by Bonneville International
Bridgeport, Connecticut WICC-600 1967–1989 owned by Cumulus Media
Chicago, Illinois WFMT-98.7 1968–1970 owned by Window to the World Communications
(now WRME-LP)
1 1
Duluth, MinnesotaSuperior, Wisconsin KDAL-610 1960–1981 owned by Midwest Communications
New York City, New York WPIX-FM/WQCD-101.9
(now WFAN-FM)
1963–1997 owned by Entercom


  • 1 WGWG-LP is owned by Venture Technologies Group, and was operated by Tribune under a local marketing agreement. Tribune was supposed to hold the LMA until 2015, the FCC's deadline for converting low-power television stations to digital broadcasting, however due to low raitings, Weigel Broadcasting announced on December 30, 2014 that they would take over the Station's LMA from Tribune & would change formats.[38] The LMA with Tribune ended on February 23, 2015 when Weigel took over the Station & changed the format to Oldies. The Callsign was also changed to WRME-LP.[39][40] Although licensed as a television station on channel 6, it is also operated as a radio station.[41]

Other assetsEdit

Tribune Broadcasting 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).

It owns 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 Discovery Inc.)

Tribune Broadcasting also owns two digital multicast networks: This TV (launched in 2008, 50%), which airs television series), and Antenna TV (100%, launched in 2010), which airs movies and children's programming.

Carriage controversiesEdit

April 2012 DirecTV disputeEdit

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.[42] 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.[43] 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.[44]

August 2012 Cablevision disputeEdit

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).[45] 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.[46] 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.[47]

June 2016 DISH disputeEdit

Tribune's carriage agreement with DISH and Tribune-affiliated ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, & NBC over-the-air stations expired on June 12, 2016.[48]

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."[49]

On September 3, Tribune and Dish came to a long-term agreement ending the three-month-long dispute.


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  2. ^ "KWGN(TV) starts with a bang." Broadcasting, March 14, 1966, pg. 58. [1][permanent dead link]
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  36. ^ Tribune Radio Network website
  37. ^ Accord puts Channel 6 weather, news on Clear Channel radio stations Archived 2009-07-27 at the Wayback Machine.
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  49. ^