Zimmer: U-verse Deal Hastens WGN America Cable Conversion

Net to Add 5 Million Subs, Mostly via DirecTV

WGN America president of distribution Dana Zimmer said Tribune Media's just announced retransmission-consent and carriage deal with AT&T's U-verse will add 5 million subscribers to the cable network, bringing its total to more than 80 million by 2016.

She said the subscribers, mostly from DirecTV but some from U-verse, would be added "incrementally" but would all be on board by Jan. 1, 2016. AT&T recently merged with DirecTV.

"The important thing about this deal is that it completes our status from a superstation to a cable network 18 months ahead of schedule," Zimmer told Multichannel News, "So the network will be a fully run network by the end of the year." She called the agreement one of the last big deals Tribune had yet to convert. The conversion got off to a rolling start in December 2014 with several Comcast markets.

Asked if the buzz about original drama Manhattan helped to convert the deal, she said "all the programming certainly helped to sell the network," and called it a complex deal that she could not ascribe too much credit to one element, but added: "Certainly The rise of Manhattan has been helpful to the network."

Zimmer also pointed out that come January the network will, for the first time, have both an East Coast and a West Coast feed.