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FitzSimons Needs a Better Plan

I'm a little skeptical of The Chandler Family's attack on Tribune Co.'s planned stock buyback. But it would nevertheless be nice to see Trib CEO Dennis FitzSimmons articulate a better plan for his TV stations (which the Chandlers want him to unload.)

Speaking at the annual Newspaper Association of merica's annual mid-year media review conference, FitzSimons defended the buyback plan in part by laying out his vision for Tribunes various divisions.

Newspapers: "focused on readership. Content innovations and subscriber retention efforts..building incremental revenues by growing its direct mail and targeted print businesses…solid growth in products such as Red Eye and AM New York". Got it.

Internet: "It's become the fastest-growing part of our business…up 28% (year to date)…more than $225 million in 2006..6% of publishing revenue building and acquiring online businesses…CareerBuilder,,,, and…" Check.

So what's the clear and convincing case for holding onto the TV stations?? Here's FitzSimons' entire remarks: "In television, we have a lot of confidence in the CW's prospects for its fall launch. We're going to have the best returnings from both the WB and UPN, with established hits on every night in prime time, and these include Smallville and Gilmore Girls from the WB, and Everybody Hates Chris and from UPN. Rebranding of our stations will take place in a coordinated way over the summer."

That's it? No new local sales strategies, no expansion plans, no integration of TV sales efforts with something else? The extent of the plan is praying that The CW will be dramatically better than the combination of two failed networks? TV is at the center of the attack on Tribune. The company needs to conjure up a new TV plan or offer a whole lot more detail of the one they've got.

By John Higgins