While Judge Kevin Carey approved extension, he did not grant the added four months requested by Tribune, which filed for bankruptcy a year ago.
Tribune, which owns the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times newspapers as well as television stations, said it needs the added time to resolve all of the issues that remain.
Carey seemed swayed by arguments for granting a limited extension, giving time for talks but forcing participants to report back.
Look around and listen. The sound of clocks ticking is deafening. Courts have to be sensitive to how much of a cost benefit there is in requiring the exercise in two months rather than four, Carey said.
He ordered the parties to report back on February 18, at which time he could grant an added 60 days of exclusivity.
Bankruptcy gives a company a limited time in which it has the exclusive right to propose a plan to reorganize its business and debts, although that right can be extended with court approval.
The biggest issue remaining in the case is the investigation of the $8.2 billion leveraged buyout that put real estate developer Sam Zell in control of the company in 2007.
Holders of $1.26 billion of unsecured notes have argued for a full investigation of the deal, which they said put their claims behind billions of dollars of secured claims.
They have argued the deal could amount to a fraudulent conveyance, which could strip some of the lenders of the senior position of their claims.
A similar argument was recently made in the case of bankrupt homebuilder Tousa Inc
In the Tribune case, a group of hedge funds holding secured loan claims had argued that the judge should terminate the exclusivity period and allow them to put forward their own plan.
The group proposed reorganizing Tribune's subsidiaries, which conduct most of the company's business, and bringing them out of bankruptcy quickly, under the control of the lenders.
The parent Tribune would be left in bankruptcy under their plan while the dispute over the leveraged buyout would be settled through litigation.
I don't see any benefit to separating the corporate family, Carey said. The presentation was very thoughtful. We may have to think about it more in the future.
The case is in Re: Tribune Company et al, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 08-13141
(Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)