The E.W. Scripps Company is pushing further into the national TV networks business, announcing the purchase of ION Media for $2.65 billion today.
The purchase is backed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, which will make a $600 million preferred equity investment in Scripps to finance the transaction.
Buying ION Media will dramatically expand the TV footprint of Scripps, which currently operates 60 local television stations, five Katz networks (including Bounce TV and Court TV), and digital news service Newsy.
The West Palm Beach, Fla.-based ION Media, which had been owned by Black Diamond Capital Management, operates ION Television, which programs procedurals like Blue Bloods, Criminal Minds, Law & Order and Law & Order: SVU. The company also owns 71 stations nationwide.
Scripps said it will combine ION Media with its Katz networks and Newsy to “reach nearly every American through free over-the-air broadcast, cable/satellite, over-the-top and digital distribution, with multiple advertising-supported programming streams.”
“This evolution of Scripps’ national television networks business, through the combination of ION, the Katz networks and Newsy, repositions the company in the television landscape,” said Adam Symson, Scripps president and CEO, in a statement. “With its strong revenue growth, high margins and significant cash flow, ION will make Scripps a more powerful and durable media business with significant near-term benefit as well as long-term value. ION Media is a distribution double threat—carried on cable and satellite through must carry, while also capitalizing on cord-cutting and the growth of free over-the-air broadcasting.”
Scripps said the deal will yield $500 million in synergies over the next six years, and should close in early 2021.
After exiting the newspaper business in 2015 and leaving radio in 2018, Scripps has refocused on TV. Its portfolio had previously included hit networks like HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel, which were spun off as Scripps Networks Interactive in 2008 and later bought by Discovery in 2018.