The E. W. Scripps Company says it is launching a sports division that will leverage the company’s local broadcast stations and streaming media properties to re-engage television viewers with live sporting events.
Executives at Scripps said the company hopes to tackle the issue of fragmentation in the marketplace when it comes to live sporting events. Scripps says it is the best position to help bring professional sports and similar events to television viewers because it has a healthy mixture of local television stations and the national network Ion that can help get those events in front of more TV viewers.
“There is no better way to reach every generation of sports fan than through live broadcast television,” Adam Symson, the president and CEO of Scripps, said in a statement. “Scripps is working with the leagues and teams that recognize the role our assets can play in increasing reach and visibility for audience engagement.”
Scripps didn’t say which leagues were being approached about offering content through the new division, called Scripps Sports, but executives pointed to it as the antidote to an increasingly-fragmented space where live sports are scattered across broadcast television, regional cable channels and streaming services.
“Sports is one of the most important content genres in television, with its consistently large and dedicated audiences,” Brian Lawlor, Scripps’ head of local media who will become president of the Scripps Sports division, said on Thursday. “But the sports viewing marketplace has become extremely fragmented. Cable subscriptions are down, and regional sports networks are challenged, keeping fans from watching their home teams. Between our vast number of local stations and Ion, a national network that can be customized in many markets, we believe Scripps is positioned to widely showcase leagues and players that are currently limited by aging distribution deals.”
Scripps said it had a “long history of acquiring sports rights” for local markets, including rights to National Football League (NFL), Major League Soccer (MLS), National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and National Hockey League (NHL) games.
The company said it will leverage Ion, its 61 local broadcast stations and its streaming channels to help it secure sports rights in the future, though no deals have been announced.
In addition to 61 local broadcast stations and Ion, Scripps operates a number of digital broadcast networks and free, ad-supported streaming channels. Those properties include the 24-hour news network Newsy, justice-focused channel Court TV, and the Katz Broadcasting portfolio of channels (Bounce TV, Grit, Laff, True Real, Defy and Ion Mystery).