It’s odd to see shares of a company valued at $6.7B trading over the counter, where the inability to establish reliable pricing keeps major pension and public funds at bay. But Tribune Media CEO Peter Liguori plans to change that. The broadcast and cable company is about to apply to the SEC so it can be traded on a major exchange such as the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ, he told analysts at the Nomura Digital Media Conference. “It is something that we have to address. We do know that there is tremendous investor interest in it. We think that if we were to list it would open us up to more investors. We think that if we were to list, we’d get more coverage from people like yourself saying ‘strong buy,’ ‘ mortgage the house,’ ‘overweight Tribune.’” (Yes, his last comments were jokes.)
On other matters, Liguori acknowledged that it’s harder to create distinctive programming now than it was when he ran FX — but Tribune still can do it successfully for WGN America, which is changing from a superstation into a conventional basic cable channel. “We’re not out to fill a schedule. We’re out to build a brand….We can be much more sober with our bets.” While he acknowledges that Tribune has to spend now, “in the next 3 to 5 years we think it’s going to turn around.” WGNA reaches about 75M homes and the CEO wants it to be in 95M over the next three to five years. Tribune also wants to produce the syndicated programming that airs on its TV stations. “We’ll own 100% of our [ad] inventory,” he says.
Liguori says that Tribune’s 30% stake in Food Network offers “nice predictable income” making it “a nice asset to have.” But he’s open to selling it to majority owner Scripps Networks. “It’s all a matter of price.”