Wednesday, July 2, 2008

GM of WGN America to depart

|Tribune media columnist

ill Shaw, vice president and general manager of Tribune Co.'s WGN America since 2002, told staff of the national cable channel today that he plans to leave the company, effective Aug. 1.

No successor was named.

Tribune Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Sam Zell and his leadership team have made no secret since taking control of the media concern in December that they have considered the company's national cable channel an under performer.

They frequently pointed to its one-time superstation peer TBS in Atlanta bringing in six times as much money as the national version of WGN (seen in Chicago on DirectTV), a stat that would be even worse if WGN weren't buoyed by the popularity of Chicago Cubs telecasts.

"Everybody [sees] the superstation as a giant turkey that could be an enormous asset, but there's never been an effort to develop it," Zell said in a May visit to WGN-Ch. 9's Chicago studios. "We're going to develop it."

To that end, what had been known as Superstation WGN was renamed WGN America, complete with a new logo and slogan ("TV You Can't Ignore"), and Sean Compton, Tribune Broadcasting's new Chicago-based senior vice president of programming and development, took a role in shaping and packaging the content.

"It's still all about content," Shaw said in a February interview with the Tribune Co.-owned Chicago Tribune. "It's just a very competitive market. There are now 75 cable networks monitored by Nielsen. [WGN's cable channel] used to be one of four or one of 12. The whole universe has grown."

Shaw managed the cable channel's daily operations, affiliate distribution and sale for the cable channel from New York for more than six years.

Before joining Tribune Co.'s television division as vice president of sales in 2001, Shaw was president and chief executive of Fox Television Sales, a joint venture between News Corp.'s Fox and Petry Media that handled national sales for the Fox-owned-and-operated stations. He also earlier served as president of Petry National Television, which represented 83 U.S. TV stations.

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