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WNBA, Scripps Sports ink deal for Friday games on Ion

The deal marks the first time Ion Network will offer nationally-televised sports programming.

The deal marks the first time Ion Network will offer nationally-televised sports programming.

From left to right: Cathy Engelbert, the commissioner of the WNBA, and E. W. Scripps CEO Adam Symson. (Handout photo)

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the E. W. Scripps Company have entered into a multi-year deal that will see Scripps-owned Ion Network televise Friday night basketball games from the pro sports league.

The broadcasts will start on May 26 and will be televised on Ion broadcast stations across the country. The games will also be made available through Ion’s free, ad-supported streaming television network, which is distributed on Amazon Freevee, Google TV, Fox Corporation’s Tube, Comcast’s Sumo Play, the Roku Channel, Plex, Vizio WatchFree Plus and Samsung TV Plus.

The deal is the first for Scripps under its newly-formed Scripps Sports division, which aims to make more sports-related programming available on free broadcast and streaming television.

“The WNBA is thrilled to partner with Scripps to expand the league’s media horizon and reach basketball fans in greater numbers,” Cathy Engelbert, the commissioner of the WNBA, said in a statement emailed to The Desk on Thursday. “Access to watch WNBA games is in high demand, and Scripps’ dedicated Friday night lineup of WNBA games on Ion will become much desired appointment viewing for WNBA fans.”

Scripps says Ion’s sister networks will help with cross-promotion of the games, which will be broadcast under the name “Friday Night Spotlight on Ion.” Those promotions will run on Bounce and Scripps News, among other digital and streaming networks.

“The WNBA Friday Night Spotlight on Ion brings women’s professional basketball the broadest possible reach with the consistency that fans, players, teams and the league deserve,” Adam Symson, the CEO of Scripps, said on Thursday. “Scripps is fully committed to serving and growing the number of American women’s basketball fans who value the athleticism, professionalism and excitement the WNBA brings into their living rooms.”

For much of its history, Ion has largely served as a repository of crime drama re-runs, with marathons of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Chicago PD” and similar shows dominating much of its daily schedule. The addition of WNBA games marks the first time Ion has offered live sports on a national level, beyond a casual relationship with another local broadcast station. Scripps acquired Ion more than two years ago.

Brian Lawlor, the president of Scripps Sports, says the company was “pleased the WNBA sees the Ion Network as an opportunity to showcase its games with a weekly, nationwide franchise designed to increase visibility and fandom for this sport.”

“Women’s sports merits a national broadcast network that ensures every American TV household can watch these amazing athletes and their gripping game play,” Lawlor affirmed.

The WNBA games will begin airing on Ion Network on May 26 and will conclude on September 8. Scripps executives said games will be split between national and regional airing, with more information about the games presented offered at a later date.

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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 10 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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