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Tribune Media Kills National News Video Site Ahead of Launch, Reorgs Digital Group

Variety logo Variety 4/13/2017 Todd Spangler
© Provided by Variety

Tribune Media abruptly shut down a national digital news service — which would have included content aggregated from its 42 local TV stations — less than two weeks before it was slated to launch as part of a broad restructuring of its digital operations.

Tribune’s move to kill the digital news project was first reported by Politico. The company also has scrapped plans to resurrect Television Without Pity, the snark-laden site previously owned by NBCUniversal, and laid off the staff of the Screener entertainment news site.

The new Tribune Media digital news product was previously scheduled to debut on Tribune.com on April 25, before the company decided to pull back on its digital efforts. The nationwide news initiative had been headed by GM Steven Belser, a member of the founding team at NowThis Media and former head of production at Vice Media, who joined Tribune Media in March 2016. For the new site, Tribune Media also had set a partnership with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Hitrecord production company.

With Tribune Media’s restructuring of the digital group, Josh Cogswell, who joined in 2015 from Viacom, will step down as chief product officer, interim CEO Peter Kerns wrote in a memo to staff on Wednesday. The company’s digital operations now will be overseen by Steve Baron, head of product and engineering, and Larry Wert, president of broadcast media.

“Today we are taking another step in the strategic review process, reorganizing our centralized digital operation and fully integrating it into Tribune Broadcasting,” wrote Kerns, who took over after Peter Liguori departed last month. “Closely aligning our digital operation with broadcasting will strengthen our digital sales efforts and enable us to be more efficient in our approach to clients.”

A Tribune Media rep declined to comment beyond Kern’s memo.

Read Kern’s memo to Tribune Media staff:

Subject: Transitioning Our Digital Operations to Broadcasting

As you know, a little more than a year ago our company began a strategic review designed to monetize non-core assets, streamline our operations and bring more focus and efficiency to our television business. As part of this process we have sold certain real estate assets, monetized Gracenote, and realigned our priorities to emphasize those initiatives and projects that have a clear positive impact on profitability. We’re also asking all of you to work more closely together across our lines of business to simplify operations.

Today we are taking another step in the strategic review process, reorganizing our centralized digital operation and fully integrating it into Tribune Broadcasting. Closely aligning our digital operation with broadcasting will strengthen our digital sales efforts and enable us to be more efficient in our approach to clients.

Going forward our digital operation will be overseen by Steve Baron, Head of Product and Engineering, and Larry Wert, President of Broadcast Media.

As a result of this move, a number of people in our central digital organization will be leaving the company, as will Josh Cogswell, who will be stepping down as our Chief Product Officer. Josh and his team have done a great job over the last two years—sharpening our digital focus, helping grow our online profile and digital audience, and directing our investments in companies like Dose Media and Attn:. Josh and his team will assist with the transition of our digital operation to the broadcasting group, a process that we expect to complete over the next few weeks.

I know you will give Steve and Larry your full support as we make this important transition. Please join me in thanking Josh and our colleagues in the central digital organization for all their hard work and dedication and in wishing them the very best going forward.

Peter Kern

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