Scripps Reports Completed Carriage Agreements for 75% of Its Homes

(Image credit: Scripps)

CINCINNATI—At a time when station groups have been engaging in increasingly heated negotiations with pay TV operators over retransmission fees, The E.W. Scripps Company has announced that it has successfully completed cable and satellite carriage agreements that account for about 75% of the company's subscriber households. 

The renewals expand the number of stations on which Scripps is paid a distribution fee, grow revenue and expand distribution margins and were achieved without blackouts, the company reported. 

In a statement Scripps president and CEO Adam Symson explained that the company created new value with the agreements, and especially without the need to resort to station blackouts that punish viewers and accelerate cord cutting.

"In resetting rates for the vast majority of our pay TV subscriber base this year, we reached agreements that reflect the mutual benefit of our relationship with these important distribution partners," Symson said. "In addition, we successfully negotiated to receive new distribution fees for television stations carrying local and regional sports. As we continue to sign new rights agreements in local markets, we fully expect to partner with distributors and garner distribution fees for the carriage of live sports."

Scripps pointed to the growth of live sports programming on its stations as a factor helping it boost the value of its retransmission agreements. 

On Oct. 5, Scripps announced a new agreement to televise all locally broadcast games of NHL's Arizona Coyotes in Arizona and Utah. Scripps also has an agreement with the Stanley Cup winner Vegas Golden Nights in Las Vegas, Utah, Idaho and Montana. Scripps also carries Big Sky Football Conference games in Montana and Idaho. In addition to its local sports rights agreements, Scripps Sports is a broadcast partner for the WNBA, televising its regular-season Friday night games nationally on the ION television network.

Scripps recently launched Scripps Sports and Scripps News programming on two full-power, independent stations in its existing markets of Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, where it already operates ABC-affiliated stations. The new stations, Vegas 34 and Utah 16, give Scripps 11 duopolies across the United States and will be new contributors to its distribution fee growth. Both are broadcast over Scripps-owned transmission towers that formerly broadcast ION programming, and ION is still carried on other spectrum in those markets.

For full-year 2023, Scripps also reported that it expects $750 million in Local Media division distribution revenue, nearly 15% growth over 2022 and a 40% increase in net distribution dollars.

Separate from any new fees associated with incremental Scripps Sports rights acquisitions, the company has 5% of its cable/satellite households renewing in 2024 and in the low 20% range in 2025.

"Scripps is now capturing full value for its pay TV households, and the robust growth in our net distribution margin dollars and gross revenue is a testament to the durable economics of the linear TV marketplace at a time when most streaming services themselves are unprofitable," Symson said. "At Scripps, we are pursuing an all-of-the-above strategy with the still-massive linear TV marketplace as our foundation, bolstered by the appeal of free TV over the air, and with aggressive distribution of our national and local brands on connected TV and virtual pay TV platforms."

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.