A Delaware judge overseeing Tribune's reorganization is expected to ratify the deal between various Tribune entities and CBS Television Distribution after a Thursday hearing.
The agreement before the court is effectively a quid pro quo. After filing for Chapter 11 protection, Tribune could have moved to nullify 36 deals which include airing CBS' syndicated programming on its local stations and, to a lesser extent, the WGN America cable channel.
For CBS, losing the deals, which include carriage of first-run "Rachel Ray" in Chicago and off-network "Everybody Loves Raymond" in 11 markets, would have cost it millions over the long term.
In exchange for Tribune honoring all of the contracts, CBS has agreed to accept a payment of $1.2 million -- down from the $2.4 million that court papers show CBS was owed by Tribune when it filed for bankruptcy in December.
Tribune indicated in the court filings how critical syndicated programming is to keeping its TV business viable. Financial terms of individual program deals between Tribune and CBS have been blotted out in the filings.
Representatives from CBS Television Distribution and Tribune declined comment.
Negotiated deals are not uncommon in bankruptcy proceedings. Among the other leading syndicators, none appear to have reached similar agreements with Tribune -- though Twentieth Television, Warner Bros. and NBC Universal have filed papers as interested parties.
CBS Television Distribution includes the assets of King World and the former CBS-Paramount syndication unit.
Many of the deals between CBS and Tribune properties include older off-network series, ranging from "I Love Lucy" on KDAF in Dallas, to "Nash Bridges" on the WGN cable channel.
The "Rachel Ray" deal may be the most valuable for CBS. The series this fall is shifting from CBS-owned WBBM in Chicago to WGN as part of a three-year deal. Under a cash-plus-barter arrangement, WGN will receive 10 and a half minutes of commercial time an hour to sell, with CBS keeping three and a half.