Jonathan Katz is leaving E.W. Scripps and the broadcast networks that built, but he still sees a bright future as technology changes the television business.
“Between over-the-air, FAST, AVOD, SVOD, NextGen and addressable, there are so many opportunities for value creation in the TV landscape today,” Katz told Broadcasting+Cable.
Katz successfully launched Bounce TV on the secondary digital channels of TV stations around the country. He later sold his collection of networks to the E.W. Scripps Co. for $302 million in 2017. As part of Scripps Katz Broadcasting kept adding channels, including a reanimated Court TV.
He said he was leaving Scripps, where he was COO and head of entertainment for the broadcaster's national networks unit, because “my passion is building profitable businesses as an entrepreneur, and I decided that I wanted to return to the enthusiasm and excitement and energy that comes with ownership.”
He said he didn’t regret selling Katz Neworks to Scripps, which had originally invested in the company in 2014.
"I feel very lucky that I had investors and partners like Scripps that saw the value in the company that we built.” He said the sale enriched its investors and that the company as been “extremely profitable, growing double digits every year for Scripps. So I think everybody won with that transaction.”
Katz said he saw eye to eye with Scripps and its top executives on how to grow the networks: Bounce, Court TV, Laff, Grit, Court TV Mysteries and the recently launched Defy TV and TrueReal.
“I think the Scripps team is incredibly smart and I have truly enjoyed my partnership with them,” he said. “We will all continue to work in the same space and, who knows, maybe be partners again someday.”
When Katz helped launch Bounce with Andrew Young and Martin Luther King III, over-the-air digital networks were just getting started, but it turned out well.
“It’s always a pleasant surprise when the research turns out to be right and your vision for what an industry can become actually comes true,” He said. “At the time, while there were other players in the space, multicasting was undervalued, under-appreciated. We believed it would become a vibrant marketplace, and it did.”
Katz said that new competitors jumping into the digital over-the-air channels “has energized the marketplace and simply provides more reasons for consumers to come to the space.”
He thinks that Scripps has a “tremendous runway for growth” with its national networks business. “The symbiotic relationship between over-the top and over-the-air continues to grow. You have more consumers who are combining SVOD services with Free TV and I think that business will continue on a strong, strong growth curve,” he said. “I’m happy that our company played a major role in helping make this space robust and meet consumer demand.”
Katz Networks specialized in creating networks aimed at specific demographics. Bounce was a good example.
“The research told us at the time that a quarter of African-Americans didn’t subscribe to cable or satellite and so they didn’t have access to BET or TV One, and so [Bounce] filled that voice for millions of Americans.”
More than a decade later, “Bounce clearly has an influential position as a beloved brands, and ‘m’ sure that Scripps will continue to fuel that brand, invest in that brand, and serve African-American consumers in the same way that we have for the last 10 years.”
Katz said there’s room to start more networks and there’s programming to be had, even as media companies focus on their own streaming TV services.
“I don’t think this is a zero-sum game,” Katz said. “Consumers are only watching one platform at a time and studios recognize that and see the opportunity to monetize their content across multiple platforms that can coexist in today’s marketplace.”
The continuing proliferation of channels means “demand will still be high for acquired content and regardless of the vertical integration of SVOD services with studios, there will always be a need for the revenue that other platforms bring to those studios to help fund other content and make numbers for [Wall] Street,’' he said. “In general, if you’re asking to I still believe there will be programming available to acquire and license for a multitude of properties, I believe that answer is a clear yes.”
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