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Scripps replacing Defy TV with Ion Plus on broadcast TV

The logo for the multicast network Ion Plus. (Courtesy logo, Graphic by The Desk)
The logo for the multicast network Ion Plus. (Courtesy logo, Graphic by The Desk)

Three years ago, the E. W. Scripps Company pulled its multicast network Ion Plus from broadcast TV as it worked to diversify its over-the-air multicast offerings.

Now, Scripps has decided the time is right for Ion Plus to make its triumphant return to over-the-air TV.

On Monday, Scripps will shut down its Defy TV network and replace it on Ion-owned stations and third-party affiliates with a simulcast of the Ion Plus FAST channel, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The relaunch of Ion Plus on broadcast TV will make it instantly available in more than 90 percent of American homes that previously received Defy TV. The channel will also continue to be available on FAST platforms like The Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus and Freevee.

Defy TV launched three years ago, offering reality shows and knowledge-based programming that was geared toward young male viewers. At the time, Scripps launched a companion channel called TrueReal, which offered similar programming aimed at female viewers.

Last year, Scripps shut down TrueReal and incorporated its content library into Defy TV. Ion broadcast stations that carried TrueReal through a digital sub-channel replaced the network with a simulcast of Jewelry TV through a paid time-brokerage agreement with the home shopping channel.

Shows from Defy TV will move to Dare, a similar multicast channel offered by Free TV Networks that will launch on Monday. Free TV Networks is owned by Jonathan Katz, a broadcast pioneer whose Katz Networks was acquired by Scripps in 2017.

Scripps continues to offer a number of other multicast networks, including Scripps News, Court TV and Laff.

The decision to shut down two multicast networks over the past three years suggests Scripps was not able to draw much viewership with reality-based programming, even after folding TrueReal into Defy TV last year.  The struggle is somewhat surprising, given that other broadcasters with multicast networks — including Sinclair, which programs Comet, Charge and TBD — have seen their ratings increase over the same amount of time.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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