You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Ad Sales Drop, Higher Programming Costs Push Tribune Media to Q1 Loss

Tribune Media posted a $15.2 million loss in the first quarter, driven by lower advertising sales at its stations and higher programming costs at cabler WGN America. The broadcaster’s financial results come two days after it announced a $3.9 billion sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group, a deal that promises to create a broadcasting colossus with more than 200 stations in more than 100 markets.

Tribune Media’s revenue was down 6% to $439.9 million for the quarter. The operating loss compared to a $30 million profit in the year-ago quarter.

Tribune said the big drop in political advertising year-over-year took a bit in its earnings, as did the higher volume of original series airing on WGN America. Sinclair executives were quick to say that WGN America will be out of the high-end scripted programming business after the acquisition closes. Tribune executives have already started pruning the cabler’s push into scripted by canceling drama series “Outsiders” earlier this year after two seasons.

Tribune interim CEO Peter Kern said one problem with the push into scripted series for WGN America under the previous management regime was a lack of audience flow from those shows to the rest of the lineup dominated by off-network acquisitions.

Kern said the goal for WGN America’s programming skate is to “put an originals slate together that is somewhat more efficient and carries audience from the rest of our dayparts… on a much more profitable basis,” he told investors during a conference call on Wednesday. “That is the direction we are going with the network.”

Political advertising on Tribune’s 42 TV stations dropped to $2 million, from $15 million in the year-ago period.

Overall, Tribune stations saw a $17.7 million drop in core advertising revenue and a $13.7 million decrease in net political advertising revenue. Those declines were enough to overshadow a more than $10 million year-over-year hike in retransmission consent revenue.

Another contributor to Tribune’s red ink was the year-over-year drop in real estate sale revenue. Tribune has been on a mission to streamline the business and sell off non-core assets as it prepared the company for sale. Tribune initiated a strategic review in February 2015.

A bright spot for Tribune was a $111.5 million distribution from its 31% stake in Food Network, which Tribune executives described as one of the biggest dividends ever from its interest in the Scripps Interactive Networks cabler.

(Pictured: “Outsiders”)

More TV

  • Hulu Announces 'Castle Rock' Season 2

    Hulu Announces 'Castle Rock' Season 2 Cast, Led by Lizzy Caplan

    Hulu has announced the star-studded cast for season two of “Castle Rock,” which will be led by Tim Robbins, “Masters of Sex” actress Lizzy Caplan, and “Eighth Grade” standout Elsie Fisher. Season two will center around Annie Wilkes, Stephen King’s nurse from hell, who gets waylaid in the town of Castle Rock as a feud between [...]

  • Mindy Kaling

    Mindy Kaling, Netflix Team for Comedy Series Based on Her Childhood

    Netflix has ordered a coming-of-age comedy series inspired by the life of Mindy Kaling, Variety has learned. The untitled series, which has received a 10-episode order, was co-created by Kaling and Lang Fisher, with the latter also set to serve as showrunner. The series will follow the complicated life of a modern-day first generation Indian American [...]

  • How I Met Your Mother spinoff

    TV Writers Earn More on Packaged Shows (Study)

    Amid Hollywood’s bitter agency-versus-writers battle, United Talent Agency has issued a robust defense of its television packaging activity. In a three-season study released Wednesday, UTA asserted that its TV writer clients earn $3,374 more per episode on shows the agency packages than on those it does not package. The study also found that writers saved [...]

  • Days of Our Lives General Hospital

    2019 Daytime Emmy Nominees Announced

    “Days of our Lives,” “General Hospital” and “The Young and the Restless” lead the list of shows with the most Daytime Emmy nominations in 2019. “Days of our Lives” has received the largest total number of nominations across series in all categories, including Creative Arts, this year with 27 noms. It has earned top nominations [...]

  • Gavin Purcell

    Gavin Purcell Signs Overall Deal at Universal Television

    Writer and producer Gavin Purcell has signed an overall deal at Universal Television for both scripted and unscripted programming. The deal marks a homecoming of sorts for Purcell, who previously worked as a producer and writer on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” helping the show win the Emmy in 2015 for social TV experience [...]

  • Viacom HQ LA

    Viacom Stock Takes Hit Amid DirecTV Battle

    Viacom shares have taken a hit in trading Wednesday, a day after the company went public with its brewing battle over a new carriage agreement with AT&T’s DirecTV. Viacom shares were down more than 5% by midday, dropping to $26.05. On Tuesday afternoon, Viacom began warning viewers that its channels may go dark as of [...]

  • Ava DuVernay Sets Anthology Series 'Cherish

    Ava DuVernay Sets Romance Anthology Series 'Cherish the Day' at OWN (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) has given out a straight-to-series order for an anthology that hails from Ava DuVernay, Variety has learned exclusively. The series is titled “Cherish the Day.” Each season, the anthology series chronicles the romance of one couple, with each episode spanning a single day. The season-long narrative will unfold to reveal [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content