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WGN America President, GM Matt Cherniss to Step Down

Matt Cherniss, the president and general manager of WGN America and Tribune Studios, will step down from that role at the end of this month, Variety has learned.

The move was not unexpected as Sinclair Broadcasting recently announced they will acquire Tribune Media, with plans to shift focus away from producing original series. Peter Kern took over Tribune Media following the exit of CEO Peter Liguori, who announced his resignation in January. Cherniss has been with the network since March 2013. Sources say he is a contender for vacant posts at both AMC and Sony Pictures Television.

“We are grateful to Matt for his leadership, and creative vision in transforming WGN America,” Kern said. “He’s had a tremendous impact on the company, and we thank him for his significant contributions.”

During Cherniss’ tenure, WGN America debuted its first original series, “Salem,” which premiered to record ratings for the network. That was followed by the critically-acclaimed drama “Manhattan,” which garnered the network’s first-ever Emmy Award. In 2016, WGN launched both “Underground” and “Outsiders,” which consistently ranked among the top 20 cable dramas on television.

“Of all the decisions I made while here, the thing I am most proud of are my decisions in building this team,” Cherniss said in a statement to his staff obtained by Variety. “You are a fantastic group of individuals, full of talent and integrity, for whom I wish only the best going forward, and for whom I will always be indebted to.”

Kern has named television industry veteran Gavin Harvey to serve as interim president of WGN America. Harvey has a long history in the cable industry, serving in executive roles with networks such as E! and FX, and leading Versus, Fuse and Sportsman’s Channel.

Read Cherniss’ full statement below.

As Peter has just announced, I’ll be moving on from my role here at WGN America.  I do so with great pride for what we have accomplished, but also with a heavy heart because I will miss working with you all very much.  Nothing to this point in my career has been as thrilling to witness as what you’ve achieved as a team, in concert with a group of truly talented creators.

A change in strategy sometimes entails a change in leadership, and this is such a case.

Unlike most established networks where a president inherits a large team of employees, most of us leapt into the unknown together, and over the past four years, transformed WGN America from a superstation to a fully distributed cable network with a strong foundation that achieved record ratings for the network.  That meant, together, we had to build a Marketing, Research, Publicity, Business Affairs, Programming, and Scheduling department from scratch. Fortunately, we had a great group already in place in sales and operations, and together, it was your entrepreneurial spirit that enabled us to succeed in spite of some serious headwinds in the business.  It is those same talents that will allow you all to continue to prosper.

Of all the decisions I made while here, the thing I am most proud of are my decisions in building this team.  You are a fantastic group of individuals, full of talent and integrity, for whom I wish only the best going forward, and for whom I will always be indebted to.


My hope for all of you is that you continue to flourish here and continue the ratings momentum, that you never stop taking risks in life and that you are rewarded for it, and that you all continue to support artists who are willing to take their own risks as they seek to entertain and tell powerful stories like Underground, Outsiders, Salem and Manhattan.

I’d especially like to thank my team of Jon, Rita, Robin, Alan, Dave, Brian, Sonia, and Lenny for their hard work and friendship all along the way.

For me, it’s time to move on to a new challenge, and hopefully that challenge includes an office of some sort with walls to hang my comic book art, since my wife has made it clear (rightly so) that I’ve exceeded my allotment for the house.

I’ll be here for the next few weeks helping in the transition and look forward to spending a bit more time with you all.

Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.

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