Scripps Buys Digital Channels Bounce, Grit, Escape and Laff

By Chris Ariens 

A day after Scripps Networks Interactive chose to sell itself, its sister company, E.W. Scripps, is doubling down on over-the-air broadcasting.

Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps, which owns 33 TV stations, is acquiring Katz broadcast networks, and its four targeted networks which air primarily on the sub-channels of TV stations across the country.

The four Nielsen-rated networks, Bounce, Grit, Escape and Laff, reach more than 80 percent of all U.S. households and air classic TV shows and movies.

“Acquiring these innovators will increase our opportunity to serve the nation’s largest advertisers, who see tremendous value in the networks’ content and the large, targeted audiences they draw,” said Rich Boehne, chairman, president and CEO of Scripps.

Bounce, launched in 2011, is geared toward African-American audiences; Grit, launched in 2014, targets men with a lineup of Westerns, war and action films; Escape, also launched in 2014, focuses on investigation and mystery geared toward women; and Laff, launched last year, is devoted to comedy.

The deal is expected to close Oct. 2. The four networks are forecast to bring in $180 million in ad revenue, much of it direct-response, and about $30 million in profit in 2018.

Founder Jonathan Katz will continue to lead the Katz networks business. The company has about 130 employees and will remain based in the Atlanta area.

“With national reach and scale, the Katz networks represent valuable real estate, consistent with our strategy to remain a leader in the evolving TV landscape,” said Adam Symson, chief operating officer for Scripps, who takes over as CEO next week.

Scripps was already a 5 percent owner of Katz. The net purchase price is $292 million.

E.W. Scripps split into two companies in 2008: one, E.W. Scripps, held newspapers and TV stations (the newspapers have since been spun off and now owned by Gannet); the other, Scripps Networks Interactive, included cable networks like HGTV and Food Network. Yesterday, in a deal valued at $14.6 billion, SNI sold itself to Discovery Communications.