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Scripps Stations Seek to Develop New Access Hits

E.W. Scripps is taking a big step in its ongoing commitment to own more of its programming, and is in development on as many as nine program concepts, say multiple sources with knowledge of the group's plans, with an eye on rolling out a few of them when stations say goodbye to some popular, but expensive, syndicated shows.

"The company saw an opportunity to get away from Wheel [of Fortune] and Jeopardy and take their investment elsewhere," said one insider who asked not to be named.

Scripps's development slate involves big name producers on the West Coast, say the sources, and its sister Scripps Networks Interactive, which is home to HGTV and Food Network, among other cable staples.

Program concepts ranging from talk shows to game shows to lifestyle fare. Bob Sullivan, Scripps VP of content, is the point person on the development plans, but he would not comment. A Scripps spokesperson said the group would share more details in a couple weeks.

Sullivan was brought on board in the spring of 2010 to "develop and execute strategies for innovative local content that's built upon journalistic excellence and strong audience engagement," Scripps said in a statement at the time.

Scripps's general managers don't know many of the details, but more light will be shed at a corporate meeting in New Orleans next month. The Scripps stations are not believed to be involved in contributing content to the new shows.

Rich Boehne, Scripps president and CEO, hinted at the group's plans to increase its homegrown output when discussing Oprah Winfrey's pending departure at an investor conference a little over a year ago.

"We're going to reprogram those hours," Boehne said. "We also [decided not] to reup shows like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! Instead we're going to program locally. That will improve the margins; we'll make a lot more money."

Scripps was one of the partner groups behind RightThisMinute, along with Cox Media Group and Raycom, which debuted in September.
In October, it agreed to buy nine stations -- four ABC affiliates and five low power Azteca America outlets -- from McGraw-Hill for $212 million.