E.W. Scripps has acquired carriage contracts from the Retirement Living Television (RLTV) cable network, covering about 26 million U.S. homes. RLTV will shut down this fall, to be replaced by Newsy’s 24-hour linear feed, with a mix of news and talk-show programming aimed at millennials.
Scripps could end up paying as much as $23 million, or up to 93 cents per subscriber, for the RLTV distribution agreements under the deal with RLTV founder John Erickson. The final purchase price is based on the number of subs that come under contract with cable operators — including Comcast, Charter Communications and Altice USA — as RLTV converts to Newsy.
“The reality is, pay TV is still where the money is,” said Adam Symson, president and CEO of E.W. Scripps. “The fact remains that 80% of Americans get their television through some version of pay television. For us to move [Newsy] from OTT into pay TV is part of our belief of how the TV ecosystem will evolve.”
The RLTV agreement is “an incredible deal,” Symson added, noting that comparable distribution-agreement pacts have averaged $4 per sub and as much as $12. The changeover from RLTV to Newsy will happen throughout the fall and into the fourth quarter.
Newsy’s flip to pay TV is not like Vice Media’s launch of Viceland, which involved a brand-new slate of programming. (Viceland took over the slots occupied by A+E Networks’ H2.) The Newsy cable-news network will comprise the same programming feed it already distributes on other over-the-top platforms, and through YouTube TV and Dish Network’s Sling TV.
“We don’t really see a difference between consumers who watch on OTT or on cable,” Symson said. “We have on-demand and linear regardless of the pipe that goes into the back of the TV.”
Scripps is in talks with other distributors to carry the Newsy channel, and Symson expects to expand its reach to about 40 million cable and satellite TV homes by the end of 2018. “I just don’t think these [pay-TV] incumbents are going to sit idly by while other companies try to eat their lunch,” he said. “I think it’s likely other [traditional TV operators] will launch outside their footprints. And Newsy will have contracts with them.”
E.W. Scripps acquired Newsy in 2013 for $35 million. The online news company was founded in 2008 by media consultant and exec Jim Spencer.
The company’s pitch to pay-TV operators is that Newsy fans skew young. For news networks like CNN and Fox News Channel, about 70% of the viewership is over 55. By contrast, about 70% of Newsy’s audience is 25-54, according to E.W. Scripps.
“We think the cable operators are going to need a younger product,” Symson said. “At the end of the day they recognize young people do have a thirst for news and information. But they also know the product lining their shelves doesn’t necessarily help them reach younger subscribers.”
Newsy will continue to offer free, ad-supported video clips on the web, mobile and social media. But to access the live channel and full original series, viewers must subscribe to Newsy through a pay-TV or OTT distributor.
As it gears up for its cable debut, Newsy has bowed evening newsmagazine “The Why” (pictured above), produced from its bureaus in Chicago and Washington, D.C. It also plans to soon launch morning show “The Day Ahead” and newsmaker spotlight program “30 Minutes With.” Based in Columbia, Mo., Newsy currently has a staff of 70. The expanded programming lineup “was anticipating our move into cable,” said Laura Tomlin, senior VP of national media at E.W. Scripps.
For E.W. Scripps, the move into cable with Newsy is a back-to-the-future moment. The company in 2008 spun off cable networks including HGTV and Food Network into Scripps Networks Interactive.
Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps owns 33 local TV stations and operates an investigative reporting newsroom in Washington, D.C.; its other digital businesses include podcast ad network Midroll Media.