Scripps Jumps Into Sports, With WNBA Games Appearing on Ion

Cathy Engelbert Adam Symson
WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert with Scripps CEO Adam Symson (Image credit: E.W. Scripps)

The E.W. Scripps Co. is jumping into sports, inking a deal to air Friday night Women’s National Basketball Association games on its Ion national network.

The company formed Scripps Sports in December, saying broadcast could provide sports franchises with broad reach and large audiences at a time when cord-cutting is reducing viewership and revenues for regional sports networks on cable.

In addition to a national platform like Ion, Scripps has stations in markets where regional sports networks are under financial pressure. Scripps Sports has been talking to teams about the advantages of broadcasting games over the air.

Scripps’s deal with the WNBA creates WNBA Friday Night Spotlight on Ion, which will feature games from May 26 through September 8. 

“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,” Scripps president and CEO Adam Symson said. “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.”

Also Read: Nexstar Looks To Bring More NBA Games to Local Stations

The WNBA is the first sports property to air on Ion. Ion will launch a promotional campaign to drive awareness and tune-in. Bounce, Scripps News and Scripps’s other national networks will provide cross-promotion and Scripps also will use its local TV stations to promote WNBA Friday Night Spotlight on Ion throughout the season.

The new packages of games results from the WNBA expanding the season by two games per team. Some of the games would have appeared on WNBA League Pass, other would have been available locally.

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

The recent NCAA women’s March Madness college basketball tournament drew record ratings.

On Ion, some WNBA games will air nationally. Other weeks, viewers will get games on a regional basis.

“Scripps Sports was established to help leagues and teams extend their reach and connect with audiences through new distribution channels,” Scripps Sports president Brian Lawlor said. “We are 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.” 

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.