Looks Like A Savvy Grab For Scripps

Yesterday’s blockbuster acquisition for Scripps (Editor’s Note: In terms of station M&A, “blockbuster” doesn’t mean the same thing it meant five years ago) looks like a smart pickup for the Cincinnati-based group. Perhaps most notably, Scripps picks up some serious muscle with ABC, as it adds ABC affiliates in Denver, Indianapolis, San Diego and Bakersfield to an already booming batch of ABCs.

Having stations in those capital cities of Indianapolis and Denver will certainly come in handy when the political monies start pouring in in a few months.”They’re positioned well for 2012, that’s for sure,” says one analyst.

While the Azteca America stations are low powers, the deal nonetheless represents a power move into Spanish-language programming for Scripps, with Azteca outlets in San Diego, Bakersfield, Denver, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs.Of course, deals are about scale, and the formerly 10-station Scripps group builds up distribution for the daily strip show RightThisMinute that it has partnered with Cox and Raycom on. Such scale will come in handy as Scripps rolls out mobile DTV at its stations, noted Senior VP of Television Brian Lawlor yesterday. It may also come into play amidst Scripps’ plans to start charging for premium web content.

“More scale gives you more opportunity,” said Lawlor.

Some watchers feel McGraw-Hill got a premium on the stations. The EW Scripps stock price doesn’t seem to be goosed by yesterday’s news; it was at $6.60 when I posted this around 10:30, down around 2% from its $6.74 closing yesterday.

B&C and TVB named Lawlor Broadcaster of the Year last month. Speaking with me back in August, Lawlor hinted that a deal might be in the works. 

He said:

“We are clearly looking at the station groups and individual stations that are up to see if anything is a good fit for us. Our balance sheet is one of the best in the business. That affords us the ability to make a move comfortably if we found one that works for us. Like many other groups, our eyes are wide open, looking for strategic opportunities right now.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.