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Scripps Networks Pitch Value of Free Over-the-Air Viewing

Scripps Networks Upfront 2022
E.W. Scripps is touting its over-the-air offerings to advertisers (Image credit: Scripps Networks)

Scripps Networks is looking to convince media buyers to put more money into something that’s free to watch.

In an upfront where advertisers are concerned about not being able to reach cord-cutters, E.W. Scripps wants media buyers to know that it dominates the free, over-the-air digital networks space and will be adding original programming to its networks.

Scripps is looking to help free over-the-air viewing grow even faster with a $20 million campaign aimed at teaching consumers about the advantages of using an antenna. 

“We believe so much in the importance of the OTA space that we're making a commitment of our own to educate, promote, and encourage the further adoption of over-the-air television through a company-wide initiative called the Free TV Project,” Scripps Networks chief revenue officer Michael Teicher said.

Also: Scripps‘ Court TV Mystery Rebranded as Ion Mystery

Already, one in three homes has an antenna, Teicher notes, with 8.5 million digital antennas sold last year. At this point, “the number of people adding digital antennas is now actually surpassing the number of people that are cutting the cord on an annual basis,” he said.

Homes with an antenna are growing at 10% a year, which means there will be 50 million antenna homes by 2025. 

“That’s a dramatic increase of about 25 million homes that cable will not be able to reach and it’s yielding terrific results for us,” said Teicher, who said the Scripps networks capture 25% of over-the-air viewing. 

“When you combine antenna growth With smart programming acquisitions and some unique and strategic scheduling, we are the only pure entertainment portfolio as a cluster whose ratings have grown over the past year,” he said.

A big chunk of Scripps Networks viewers — 47% — also subscribe to one or more commercial-free subscription video-on-demand service. “We sit in a unique place to reach viewers who don’t have cable and watch SVOD services with now advertising,” Teicher said.

Other broadcasters are also pushing their over-the-air networks, but Teicher doesn’t want Scripps to be battling for a share of an emerging OTA market. “We are here to prove the efficacy of our media versus cable and network television,” he said. “Whatever our competitors do to raise the profile of OTA is fine by me. We have 25%. That tells us we’ll be doing the heavy lifting. They’ll be the beneficiaries and that’s fine.”

Scripps is also working to make its over-the-air networks, which include Ion, Bounce, Court TV and Newsy, available via over-the-top streaming. Last month, Scripps’ Ion network was launched on the Samsung TV Plus smart TV platform. Bounce is also available on CTV platforms.

“You cam buy linear Bounce and bounce on CTV to expand your reach and have that unique scale," said Teicher. "Buying Bounce on CTV also provides the ability to target viewers more precisely," he added 

With a portfolio of nine networks, Scripps offers a diverse audience and a diverse collection of programming genres. “We’re going to take some good-size swing in the original area,” Teicher said. 

One example is Finding Happy coming to Bounce as a female companion to the network’s popular show Johnson. Another is Tamron Hall’s new show on Court TV. Also, Ion has Leverage: Redemption, a co-production with Amazon. A set of holiday movies is also part of the slate.

The Scripps Networks also have tentpole programming, including the Trumpet Awards airing on Bounce on Juneteenth (June 19) and The National Spelling Bee which this year moves from ESPN to Bounce, Ion, Laff and TrueReal.

Also: LeVar Burton Named Host of Scripps National Spelling Bee

Teicher also pointed to statistics that show that the acquired dramas that that Ion has do better number on Ion than on other networks. He also notes that viewing on Ion is nearly all live, increasing the chance that people will watch the commercials.

Scripps is working with research company TVision, which measures viewer attention. TVision has found that the Scripps Networks are among the best at capturing viewers attention. 

All of that adds up to more effective advertising, he said.

These days there are numerous ways to buy inventory, particularly when it comes to digitally delivered programming.

“You can buy inventory in our content on third-party platforms, however, there are a number of advantages in buying it directly from us,” Teicher said.

Direct ad buyers get more transparency about when and where commercials are spring, better frequency caps and additional data to help evaluate campaign effectiveness.

“Advertisers don’t necessarily get a better price buying direct. Nevertheless, we're seeing an increase in the number of advertisers who want to buy directly from us because of the data and the transparency,” he said. “You get more value and more brand safety, which obviously is a key to advertisers. You know exactly what you're getting with us.” ■

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.