In an interesting move that some may question, given trends suggesting that millennials are “cord cutters,” The E.W. Scripps Co. has acquired the carriage contracts of the Retirement Living Television (RLTV) cable network and will replace it with Scripps’ millennial-targeted news and information network Newsy.
The purchase price for RLTV is not fixed: it is based on the number of subscribers that come under contract with the cable companies and convert to Newsy. “The final purchase price could be up to $23 million, no more than 93 cents per subscriber,” Scripps said in an announcement filed with the SEC Wednesday morning.
For Scripps, the distribution of Newsy over an MVPD — in addition to its availability via Scripps TV station apps on devices such as Roku — is a major shift for the network in terms of long-term audience growth.
Scripps says the “major expansion” for Newsy is being done to capitalize on its momentum in over-the-top television.
But, MVPD subscribers will see gradual flips from RLTV programming to Newsy, with the transition set to begin “over the next few months.” The swap of stations is expected to be completed by the end of 2018, expanding Newsy’s reach to an estimated 40 million cable and satellite subscribers.
RLTV is widely distributed on Comcast, AT&T U-Verse, Suddenlink, Spectrum and Verizon FiOS, but is not carried on Cox systems in such retirement-rich areas as the Phoenix DMA.
Founded by John Erickson, RLTV programming includes Who’s Cooking with Florence Henderson, Taking Care with Joan Lunden, and vintage car program Style in Steel.
Scripps President/CEO Adam Symson said, “Newsy has already made a name for itself among millennial news consumers who rely on over-the-top television. Now we’ll be reaching Americans with cable and satellite service who are looking for a fresh approach to news coverage. This expanded reach for our advertising business alongside carriage fees furthers our strategy to develop Newsy as a prominent multi-platform news network with dual revenue streams.”
But, who gets RLTV now, and where it is located on an MVPDs channel lineup will likely play a key role in Scripps’ growth plan, which pits Newsy against FOX News, CNN, MSNBC and, to a limited extend, BBC-brand news channels and the PBS stations that carry BBC news from London.
Newsy, like the aforementioned news and scheduled talk show-heavy networks, features an original programming lineup that includes the evening newsmagazine The Why, and soon will include the morning show The Day Ahead and the newsmaker spotlight program 30 Minutes With.
“Newsy’s programming strategy reflects its signature approach — insight, context and sources focused on solutions,” Scripps said. “Newsy’s OTT programming has garnered a loyal audience of 18-34-year-olds.”
This was reiterated by Laura Tomlin, SVP/National Media for Scripps. “Younger audiences are looking for the coverage with context that Newsy delivers,” she said “Cable and satellite companies are seeking programming like Newsy to grow their subscriber base with younger viewers — a demographic that mainstream cable news outlets have struggled to capture.”
Scripps shared similar sentiments regarding its Newsy expansion strategy as part of its Investor and Media Day this morning at the Warwick Hotel in New York.
The Newsy expansion comes as Scripps gets ready for the Sept. 18 debut of its new syndicated daytime lifestyle and entertainment chat show Pickler & Ben. Hosted by country music star Kellie Pickler and Emmy-winning television personality Ben Aaron, the talk show will premiere in 38 markets across the U.S. The show will be recorded in front of a live audience at a studio in Nashville.
Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and Television Distribution is distributing the show in national syndication; on its premiere date nearly all of the stations airing Pickler & Ben will be Scripps-owned, underscoring the growing trend of broadcast TV companies developing their own content instead of relying on the NATPE negotiation and a changing marketplace for non-network programming.
While Scripps Networks Interactive is the parent of such networks as HGTV, Food Network, The Travel Channel and Great American Country (GAC), the E.W. Scripps Co. is the owner of 33 TV stations, including ABC KGTV-10 and Azteca América KZSD-15 in San Diego; NBC WPTV-5 in West Palm Beach; and NBC flagship WTMJ-4 in Milwaukee.
Scripps also owns and operates 34 radio stations in eight markets.