TV Upfronts

Scripps Networks Wants Everyone to Watch Free TV

The company is investing $20 million to spread the word about OTA

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E.W. Scripps’ Scripps Networks is on a mission to bring everyone free TV. At its virtual upfront presentation this year, Scripps Networks said it’s investing in spreading the word about over-the-air (OTA) viewing.

Scripps Networks is committing a $20 million investment in off-channel marketing over the next year in The Free TV Project. The initiative will educate consumers on the advantages of antennas, the number of channels they can receive, the technological advancements and affordability.

That’s because OTA deserves the same push as cable, said Jon Marks, chief research officer at Scripps Networks.

“Over-the-air television has existed since the introduction of the television signal and television technology. And it’s so taken for granted that there’s really no single organization out there educating consumers about over-the-air television in the same way that there has been since the dawn of cable. It started with a very famous campaign from MTV called ‘I Want My MTV,'” Marks said.

However, “we haven’t had that on the OTA side,” said Marks. “So consumers, because of that, don’t really know that they can get typically three dozen channels with the purchase of a $25 antenna, and that is a great bargain. And that the content is as diverse as it is.”

The program will likely extend Scripps Networks’ formidable reach.

Scripps has nine OTA networks, including Newsy, ION, Court TV and Bounce, and more than 60 OTT products. In all, Scripps Networks reaches around 71 million viewers per month, accounting for more than 660 billion viewing minutes annually. Nearly 400 million of those minutes come through streaming each month, according to the company.

“They’re really a diverse stable of OTA networks—diverse in terms of content, in terms of the audience that they reach, demographics, etc.—to the point where we now capture 25% of OTA network viewing. We really do dominate the space,” Michael Teicher, chief revenue officer at Scripps Networks, told Adweek.

And that viewership is already growing. According to the company’s year-over-year C3 impressions, total viewers grew by 12%, 18-49 by 5% and 25-54 by 3%. And 39% of its total audience is multicultural.

“We are the only entertainment network portfolio in broadcast and cable, extracting sports and news, to show growth year-over-year,” Teicher said.

For marketers, “we believe exposure plus engagement equals effective advertising. And that’s what we offer,” Teicher said.

All about engagement

The company said that its viewers are more engaged than ever. It shared the results of a recent study with TV engagement analytics company TVision, which tracks the presence and eye movements of consumers, and found that viewers generally paid more attention to Scripps’ networks than cable networks on average, with Bounce outperforming BET.

“Our viewers are not only a different pool of viewers than cable networks reach, but they are also just more highly attentive as TVision data showed, and so an advertiser can get more mileage impression for impression on our networks than elsewhere in the industry,” Marks said.

The company also implements a proprietary analytics tool called SURG (Scripps Unduplicated Reach Generator), which Scripps Networks said can help deliver better reach to advertisers, even helping to capture elusive light TV viewers.

“The old axiom says that 80% of the ads are seen by 20% of the viewers, so they’re just getting bombarded by ads, but when you watch these ads on our network, we’re reaching the light TV viewers. So that’s really important. So your CPMs even by default come down as well,” Teicher said.

To keep those viewers engaged and extend that reach even more, Scripps Networks is investing more in originals, including Finding Happy, a companion show to the series Johnson on Bounce, Leverage Redemption Season 2 on ION, Tamron Hall’s show Someone They Knew on Court TV, holiday movies and more.

“We are investing 200% more dollars in originals, so this is across the portfolio,” Teicher explained.

Scripps Networks will also feature tentpole events, including the Scripps Spelling Bee, which is now airing on Scripps Networks instead of ESPN, with LeVar Burton taking hosting duties. The company will continue the Bounce Trumpet Awards, which airs the week of Juneteenth and celebrates Black excellence.

“Maybe the biggest headache for advertisers right now is finding that unique reach, because cable penetration is so much lower, and how many people are watching SVOD. So there are tens of millions of people advertisers cannot reach if they’re advertising on cable only. So, we extend their reach, and it’s about unique reach. And it’s free, free, free, free, free,” Teicher said.