Tribune has named Warner Bros. executive Matt Cherniss president/general
manager of WGN America and the newly formed Tribune Studios.
Cherniss, 40, will be responsible for overall strategy,
execution and day-to-day strategy operations of both properties, based in Los
Angeles, and report to Tribune CEO Peter Liguori. He'll oversee the development
of original content for WGN America and Tribune's 23 local TV stations.
Julio Marenghi, who has headed WGN America since 2009, will
now be president of broadcast media sales, overseeing ad sales for the
company's local stations and WGN Radio in Chicago.
The hire reunites Cherniss and Liguori, who worked together
at FX. And just like The Shield put FX on the map in 2002, Cherniss will
be tasked with finding that breakout piece of programming that can redefine WGN
"It all begins with one show," Cherniss told B&C.
"It starts that process of building WGN America to be on the same level with
all the other general entertainment networks out there."
Liguori and Cherniss had few details to share about what
viewers they will target with the revamped network, preferring to focus on
letting the programming lead them to an audience. Cherniss did say that both
scripted and unscripted will eventually be a part of the mix.
"It's difficult for us at this point to get into any
specific targets," Liguori said. "Matt, who has a research background, will do
some digging. We'll see where there's some white space and we will make our
case internally and to the creative community of who we should go after and who
we can draw into our network."
The syndicated shows that Tribune has in the works like Bill Cunningham and co-productions with
CBS on Arsenio Hall and The Test will fall under the new Tribune
Tribune Studios will start with producing content for its
own stations, but Liguori said the arrangement allows for the beta testing and
marketing of new programming on its stations with the opportunity to expand to
other station groups, or WGN America, in the case of a hit show.
"Clearly the goal is they will develop with our
stations and our stations in mind and WGNA," he said. "However, great content
conquers all and if it's on our local stations we should monetize it and have
it go out to others."