Ahead of Sinclair-Tribune deal, Cherniss jumps ship at WGN America

Tribune Tower
Tribune has been making cuts to its original programming to shore up cash ahead of its merger with Sinclair.
Matt Cherniss
Matt Cherniss

As Sinclair’s $3.9 billion bid for Tribune Media pursues approval, Matt Cherniss, president and general manager for WGN America and Tribune Studios, is leaving the company.

Cherniss is stepping down at the end of the month and Gavin Harvey, a veteran of networks including E! and FX, is stepping in as interim president of WGN America.

With Cherniss at the helm, WGN America accelerated its original programming slate and launched well-received dramas including “Salem,” “Manhattan,” “Underground” and “Outsiders.” Tribune said that under Cherniss, WGN America’s advertisers more than doubled and distribution increased by nearly 10 million homes.

"I've had the great honor of leading the transformation of WGN America from a superstation to a fully distributed cable network, and the great privilege of leading a talented and wonderful team," said Cherniss in a statement. "I am tremendously proud of all of the strides we've made and what we were able to accomplish in a short period of time."

RELATED: Sinclair reportedly in talks with ex-Sony chief Mosko to head programming following Tribune deal

Cherniss’s departure from WGN America comes amid reports that Sinclair is already on the hunt for someone to lead the programming effort following the Tribune deal, and that ex-Sony Pictures Television head Steve Mosko may be a candidate for the job, according to the Financial Times.

As the Sinclair merger looms, Tribune has been making some cuts to its original programming schedule in order to save capital.

The network recently canceled drama “Underground” and, not long before that, its highest-rated drama, “Outsiders.” According to The Washington Post, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley said the ratings did not justify the high production costs. Tribune Media CEO Peter Kern offered some additional insight on the cancellations.

“As WGN America evolves and broadens the scope and scale of its portfolio of series, we recently announced that resources will be reallocated to a new strategy to increase our relevance within the rapidly changing television landscape. This move is designed to deliver additional value for our advertising and distribution partners and offer viewers more original content across our air,” Kern said.