Progress Is Coming to Tribune (Don't Mind the Blood)

On the day 30 people in the Sun-Sentinel newsroom are laid off, the corporate news is just dandy, according to Tribune Co. COO Randy Michaels, who reports that the company is "making progress."  

For instance, the show "WWE Superstars" had great ratings on WGN, and they're having wonderful luck with reruns of Entourage. Oh, and Gossip Girl -- don't even get him started on Gossip Girl.

Downright surreal.

Here's Michaels' memo sent today at 6:07 p.m. 

 

From: Tribune Communications [mailto:TribuneCommunications@Tribune.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 6:07 PM
Subject: Message from Randy Michaels/Making Progress
 

Tribune's Board of Directors held its regularly scheduled May meeting today and, among other things, reviewed the company's progress on the restructuring process.  Importantly, we told the Board we continue to have a positive dialogue with our creditors.  As we said in December, this entire process will take time and patience.  I want to thank you again for all your hard work and perseverance. 

The Board of Directors took time to approve the promotions of several individuals who have played key roles in the restructuring process and in driving change across the company over the last year:

  • Steve Gable becomes EVP/Chief Technology Officer;
  • Dave Eldersveld is promoted to SVP/Deputy Counsel & Corporate Secretary;
  • Dan Kazan is elevated to SVP/Development; and
  • Naomi Sachs becomes SVP/Strategy. 

Steve, Dave, Dan, and Naomi are really deserving of this recognition--they've provided great leadership and hard work as we continue transforming Tribune for the future.  In addition, Tribune Publishing's Vince Casanova was promoted to SVP/Circulation--he's leading our efforts to rethink the printing and circulation strategies at our newspapers, and he's helped us generate millions in new revenue. 

Along with these promotions, I want to share with you a number of recent developments around the company--developments that are a clear indication that we are continuing to reinvent Tribune and building momentum as we do it.

First, a quick illustration of the power of our brands and the strength we have when we work together.  Last month, "WWE Superstars" debuted on WGN America to almost 1.3 million viewers--the largest

audience for a non-Cubs related broadcast this year.  And we spent absolutely nothing to market the show with outside media.   

Using only our own newspapers and television stations to promote it, WWE Superstars pulled in huge ratings.  In the three weeks prior to the debut, 21 of our 23 television stations ran two or three WWE spots every day.  Five of our newspapers ran full- or quarter-page WWE ads every day.  This in-house promotion was worth about $3.5 million.  And it paid off.       

Something else we think will pay off is our acquisition of the broadcast syndication rights to two of HBO's most popular shows:  Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm.   Both will begin airing on our stations in fall 2010.  These shows have never been seen before on over-the-air television and they will provide strong programming following our late-night local market newscasts.  We think they'll be a great fit for our stations.

The Daily Press newspaper just went all-color, and did so without any significant capital expense--just good solid planning.  The conversion is a big hit with advertisers and has allowed the newspaper to raise advertising rates modestly, even in the face of a tough economy.  Los Angeles Times launched a new look to its website and kicked off Brand X, available online and as a free print weekly all over southern California.  As the editors describe it, Brand X is "...trading next-generation ideas on lifestyle, tech, entertainment, food, events, volunteering, style and the outdoors."  It's off to a great start and you can access it here: www.thisisbrandx.

The team at Tribune Interactive has been active on a number of projects, such as working with our newspaper websites to aggregate health content.  The material is creating innovative new sales and content opportunities.  In addition, later this summer TI will launch a national website devoted to health news. 

TI continues making progress on moving our websites to a common platform known as power to the producer (P2P).  The roll-out at our TV stations will be complete next week, and the newspaper sites will follow quickly.  We will have all our sites on the same platform by August.

TI is also deeply involved with Chicago Tribune's launch of "ChicagoNow," a new website that combines content from across the Chicago Tribune Media Group--this link will give you a sense of what it's all about: http://multimedia.tribune.com/CN/ChicagoNow.html

On the sales front, Doug Thomas and our national sales group, TRIBUNE365, created an unusually innovative opportunity for Target, one of our largest retail advertisers.  Target was looking for a unique way of reaching consumers in downtown Chicago.  Doug and his team sold Target on the idea of creating a three-day instant "pop-up" store using space at Tribune Tower that fronts Michigan Avenue.  

Target bought a four-page wrap-around section in RedEye, additional ads in Chicago Tribune and on its website, chicagotribune.com.  The stars of The CW's "Gossip Girl" attended the press preview of the store.  The store was the first of its kind in the Midwest and was a huge success.  Target, a major client, is extremely happy.  In a tough ad environment, that means a lot.

The Target experience is a great example of creative thinking and great execution.  This was a concept that went from idea to reality in just six weeks.  And, in the end, just like the WWE experience, demonstrates the true power of our brands and what we can achieve when we work together.

Let's keep at it.

Randy         

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