Scripps’s response to cord cutting: Launch new TV networks

The company wants to encourage people to ditch cable and replace it with over-the-air antennas.

Pawn Stars branded mugs

New networks Defy TV and TrueReal will carry shows like "Pawn Stars" and "Married at First Sight."

Photo: David Becker/Getty Images

Consumers are voting with their feet, abandoning cable television by the millions and flocking to streaming services like Netflix and Disney+. Veteran media company E.W. Scripps is responding to this trend with a contrarian move: launching two new TV networks next month.

Defy TV and TrueReal are being positioned as male- and female-centric, respectively. TrueReal will carry shows like "Storage Wars" and "Married at First Sight," while Defy's programming will include "Pawn Stars" and "Ax Men." It's the kind of reality TV fare you might know from cable networks like the History Channel or A&E — the very networks now struggling with pay TV subscriber defections.

The key difference between those cable properties and the new Scripps networks: Defy and TrueReal will primarily be available over the air, for free. Viewers just need to pick up an antenna for less than $20 to tune in. "Why is Scripps doubling down on over-the-air television? For us, it's really simple. It's the result of cord cutting," explained Scripps Chief Revenue Officer Michael Teicher in a recent conversation with Protocol.

Over-the-air television is nothing new to Scripps. The media company, which first launched as a newspaper publisher all the way back in 1878, has been operating local stations affiliated with major broadcasters like ABC and NBC in dozens of markets, including Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Scripps has also been operating a handful of nationwide TV networks, including Bounce, ION and Court TV, which are all available over the air, and the company has seen the audience for these properties grow as people cut the cord.

"One out of four homes are now cable-free," Teicher said. "And those numbers are growing. We think that this is going to get down to around 50 million homes." At the same time, antenna sales are growing, and consumers are rediscovering over-the-air television, which is now available in compression-free HD. "There's a little over 40 million homes right now that are using digital antennas, and we believe that that's going to continue to grow," he said.

Ahead of the launch of the two networks in July, Scripps is now making the pitch that advertisers should follow consumers to over-the-air. The argument for that is fairly straightforward: Where else are they going to go?

"Cord cutting is leading to what we call self-bundling, and it's causing the single biggest headache that advertisers have," Teicher said. "When a consumer either cancels or pares down their cable subscription, they are self-bundling with services that largely don't carry ads. Every hour a consumer spends watching [subscription] services like Netflix or Disney is an hour that [advertisers] just can't reach them."

Granted, online video is not completely ad-free. Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ do not carry ads, but Warner Bros. is rolling out an ad-supported subscription tier of HBO Max this week. Most of Hulu's subscribers do see ads, while some pay more for an ad-free tier. And then there is a growing number of free, ad-supported video services like Tubi and Amazon's IMDb TV, which pitch themselves to advertisers as the best way to reach cord cutters and younger viewers who never had cable to begin with.

Scripps isn't ignoring these trends. The company's Newsy news network is already available on a number of free streaming networks, as is Court TV. Scripps is looking to launch Bounce, its over-the-air channel for African American audiences, on linear streaming services in August.

Free TV, watched with over-the-air antennas as well as streaming services: Scripps is very much betting the house on it. Scripps acquired Ion Media and its ION over-the-air network for $2.65 billion in January. In March, it sold podcast ad provider Triton Digital to iHeartMedia, following the sale of the podcasting service Stitcher to SiriusXM last year.

And later this year, the company is going to become a cord cutter of sorts itself: Newsy, which in addition to streaming online has also been available on cable and satellite TV networks, will move away from pay TV and become a nationwide over-the-air news network. Coinciding with this and the launch of the two new networks this summer, Scripps will also make a promotional push to reintroduce audiences to over-the-air television, and perhaps encourage them to cut the cord along the way.

"We believe it's incumbent upon us as a company to really dial up the education and [teach] people how they can really make a dramatic shift in spending [with] a $15 antenna," Teicher said.

Correction: This story was updated June 3, 2021, to correct which networks Scripps bought in January.

Enterprise

Why foundation models in AI need to be released responsibly

Foundation models like GPT-3 and DALL-E are changing AI forever. We urgently need to develop community norms that guarantee research access and help guide the future of AI responsibly.

Releasing new foundation models doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition.

Illustration: sorbetto/DigitalVision Vectors

Percy Liang is director of the Center for Research on Foundation Models, a faculty affiliate at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI and an associate professor of Computer Science at Stanford University.

Humans are not very good at forecasting the future, especially when it comes to technology.

Keep Reading Show less
Percy Liang
Percy Liang is Director of the Center for Research on Foundation Models, a Faculty Affiliate at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, and an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University.

Every day, millions of us press the “order” button on our favorite coffee store's mobile application: Our chosen brew will be on the counter when we arrive. It’s a personalized, seamless experience that we have all come to expect. What we don’t know is what’s happening behind the scenes. The mobile application is sourcing data from a database that stores information about each customer and what their favorite coffee drinks are. It is also leveraging event-streaming data in real time to ensure the ingredients for your personal coffee are in supply at your local store.

Applications like this power our daily lives, and if they can’t access massive amounts of data stored in a database as well as stream data “in motion” instantaneously, you — and millions of customers — won’t have these in-the-moment experiences.

Keep Reading Show less
Jennifer Goforth Gregory
Jennifer Goforth Gregory has worked in the B2B technology industry for over 20 years. As a freelance writer she writes for top technology brands, including IBM, HPE, Adobe, AT&T, Verizon, Epson, Oracle, Intel and Square. She specializes in a wide range of technology, such as AI, IoT, cloud, cybersecurity, and CX. Jennifer also wrote a bestselling book The Freelance Content Marketing Writer to help other writers launch a high earning freelance business.
Climate

The West’s drought could bring about a data center reckoning

When it comes to water use, data centers are the tech industry’s secret water hogs — and they could soon come under increased scrutiny.

Lake Mead, North America's largest artificial reservoir, has dropped to about 1,052 feet above sea level, the lowest it's been since being filled in 1937.

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The West is parched, and getting more so by the day. Lake Mead — the country’s largest reservoir — is nearing “dead pool” levels, meaning it may soon be too low to flow downstream. The entirety of the Four Corners plus California is mired in megadrought.

Amid this desiccation, hundreds of the country’s data centers use vast amounts of water to hum along. Dozens cluster around major metro centers, including those with mandatory or voluntary water restrictions in place to curtail residential and agricultural use.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Workplace

Indeed is hiring 4,000 workers despite industry layoffs

Indeed’s new CPO, Priscilla Koranteng, spoke to Protocol about her first 100 days in the role and the changing nature of HR.

"[Y]ou are serving the people. And everything that's happening around us in the world is … impacting their professional lives."

Image: Protocol

Priscilla Koranteng's plans are ambitious. Koranteng, who was appointed chief people officer of Indeed in June, has already enhanced the company’s abortion travel policies and reinforced its goal to hire 4,000 people in 2022.

She’s joined the HR tech company in a time when many other tech companies are enacting layoffs and cutbacks, but said she sees this precarious time as an opportunity for growth companies to really get ahead. Koranteng, who comes from an HR and diversity VP role at Kellogg, is working on embedding her hybrid set of expertise in her new role at Indeed.

Keep Reading Show less
Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

Climate

New Jersey could become an ocean energy hub

A first-in-the-nation bill would support wave and tidal energy as a way to meet the Garden State's climate goals.

Technological challenges mean wave and tidal power remain generally more expensive than their other renewable counterparts. But government support could help spur more innovation that brings down cost.

Photo: Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash

Move over, solar and wind. There’s a new kid on the renewable energy block: waves and tides.

Harnessing the ocean’s power is still in its early stages, but the industry is poised for a big legislative boost, with the potential for real investment down the line.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Latest Stories
Bulletins