Tribune Television will weather the current economic downturn, says new President Pat Mullen, by focusing on new-business development-particularly in big markets like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where it can sell packages of print, TV, radio, cable and Internet in cross-platform deals.
The company will cut costs where it can, Mullen says, although, at the present time, it has no plans for layoffs. "I truly think the economics today is a short-term situation," he explains, adding that Tribune's cross-platform sales strategy has begun to pay off in new incremental revenues.
Mullen was named president of Tribune Television on March 7, replacing Michael Eigner, who is stepping down to remain in New York instead of relocating to Chicago, where Tribune is based. For the 14 months that he served as Tribune Television president, Eigner commuted to Chicago.
Eigner will remain with Tribune and has been named to the new post of president at Tribune Cable-a position that gives him oversight of WGN Cable and Tribune's 29% interest in TV Food Network and minority stake in The Golf Channel. He will continue to oversee Tribune Television's East Coast stations and will report to both Mullen and Dennis FitzSimons, Tribune Co. executive vice president.
Mullen says he's "very fortunate" to have Eigner still at the company. "To have him doing that job, I've got him right there to pick his brain and work with closely every day. He's one of the best in the business." Mullen said the moves represent a "logical restructuring given where Michael is based, the needs of the company and the opportunities that are in front us. To my view, it's a win-win."
Eigner was out of the country last week on vacation and could not be reached for comment. But others confirmed that it was basically his decision to step down from the top TV slot rather than move to Chicago. "Michael and [his wife] Linda are very settled in New York," says one source.
Mullen joined Tribune a little over three years ago when the group owner bought Fox affiliate WXMI-TV Grand Rapids, Mich., where he was vice president and general manager. Tribune appointed him group vice president overseeing the company's six Fox stations. About a year ago, Mullen added Tribune's WB stations to his list of responsibilities.
Looking ahead, Mullen says Tribune wants to buy more TV stations, particularly duopolies where possible. The group currently covers 38% of the U.S. but only 28.8% per the FCC's coverage definition.
As part of the restructuring, Peter Walk, regional vice president, Tribune Television, has been named senior vice president of the company. John Reardon, vice president and general manager at KTLA-TV Los Angeles, will take on added duties as West Coast regional vice president.