In a strategic move that could be repeated elsewhere, Tribune Co. announced Wednesday that its South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Miami-based WSFL-TV would merge operations, with the TV station's staff moving to the newspaper's Fort Lauderdale headquarters.
The move goes further than any previous newspaper-TV station collaboration, said Ed Wilson, new president of Tribune Broadcasting. He said the merger would give advertisers "a single point of contact" for reaching the South Florida market via print, broadcast and the Internet. It also would enable the company to more efficiently create editorial content, particularly in "lifestyle" areas, that could be used on all three platforms.
Chicago-based Tribune owns the Los Angeles Times and KTLA Channel 5. Since Chicago billionaire Sam Zell took over as chief executive in December after leading an $8.4-billion buyout of Tribune, he has talked about trying to wring more synergy from the company's same-city print and broadcast outlets. Previous Tribune management also favored the idea, but the goal proved elusive.
"This is the new Tribune," Wilson said. "Instead of sitting and debating, let's at least give it a try."
Zell and top lieutenant Randy Michaels, CEO of broadcast and interactive, have expressed enthusiasm for combining some operations of The Times and KTLA. Wilson said no Fort Lauderdale-style merger was on the horizon, but he and Times Publisher David Hiller said the newspaper and TV station were ramping up their cooperation.
The two have discussed joint ad sales, Hiller said, adding that Times reporters are doing more KTLA appearances lately and "we do a ton of Web video together."
Wilson said he could envision more complete mergers occurring in smaller markets. "If it works, our competitors might give it a try," he said.
WSFL, like 13 of Tribune's 23 stations, gets prime-time entertainment as an affiliate of the CW network, but it doesn't have a news operation of its own. It contracts with Miami's NBC affiliate, WTVJ, for a nightly local news broadcast.
The Sun-Sentinel has an in-house TV studio and creates many of the video news clips shown on its website. It also produces news content for local TV in Fort Lauderdale.
At least initially, most of the editorial content that the newspaper would create for WSFL would be features on travel, food, fashion, entertainment and the like, Sun-Sentinel Publisher Howard Greenberg said Wednesday.
He said that advertising salespeople for the Sun-Sentinel, WSFL and their respective websites would begin working side by side next week. Editorial projects and a marketing push to help brand the effort would be developed over the coming months, he said.
Greenberg, who also serves as interim publisher of Tribune's Orlando Sentinel, is assuming the additional role of WSFL general manager. Broadcasting President Wilson said Greenberg was the first person to hold newspaper publisher and TV general manager titles at the same time.