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Former WGN America Head Matt Cherniss Joins Apple

Matt Cherniss, the former president and general manager of WGN America and Tribune Studios, has joined Apple to oversee development at their new worldwide video unit, Variety has confirmed.

He will serve under Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, the former presidents of Sony Pictures Television who joined the tech giant back in June to oversee the company’s growing push into original content.

Cherniss left WGN America and Tribune after they were acquired by Sinclair Broadcasting, as Sinclair planned 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 had been with the network since March 2013. As Variety previously reported, Cherniss was a contender for vacant posts at both AMC and Sony Pictures Television. Sources say he was offered the chance to replace AMC’s president of original programming and development Joel Stillerman, who left AMC for a position at Hulu, but Cherniss turned the offer down.

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.

The move is yet another high-profile executive hire for Apple’s newest venture. Both Van Amburg and Erlicht have built strong reputations in the television space throughout their careers, having shepherded projects for Sony that include “Breaking Bad,” “The Crown,” “The Blacklist,” and “The Goldbergs.”

Apple has already begun rolling out original content, having previously launched the competition series “Planet of the Apps” in June. The series features judges Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, will.i.am, and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. In addition, James Corden turned his late-night segment “Carpool Karaoke” into an Apple original series, which launched on Aug. 8.

Debra Birnbaum contributed to this report.

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