The new programming partnership between the two station groups is open to anything as long as it has a digital dimension. "I don’t like to box shows into a genre,” says Scripps' Cater Lee. “What it does have to have — first and foremost — is a multiplatform strategy. Anyone who doesn’t think about programming that way is very short-sighted."
Scripps, Raycom Seeking Multiplatform Fare
For the second time in little more than a month, two major station groups have formed alliances to work closely together in key areas of their business.
The newest of the two came in the announcement Feb. 22 that Raycom Media and E.W. Scripps have agreed to jointly develop original programming and, when possible, jointly clear the programming on both of their station groups as well.
The announcement came only a few weeks after news broke that Cox Media Group and Meredith Corp. were joining together to form a “co-op” designed to give them better leverage in negotiations with national syndicators over syndicated programming and big-ticket equipment purchases.
Do these two station group alliances represent a new trend in the making? They just might for one big reason: There is strength in numbers, say the programming chiefs for both Raycom and Scripps.
“I think it is a trend that there are [these] supportive alliances,” says Ken Reiner, Raycom VP of programming. “We believe that strength in numbers is always key to [program] development.… There’s just great value in that.”
“I think it’s a smart move for broadcasters to align when the opportunity arises and when it’s right for both parties,” says Cater Lee, VP of programming for the Scripps group. “We did this with the goal of [finding] something that works for both station groups, because we do have very like-minded corporate missions, stations and audiences. If we can find something together, we are more powerful, we are stronger in numbers as broadcasters, especially as the landscape becomes tighter and tighter.”
Indeed, the joint announcement that Raycom and Scripps released noted the combined strength of the two groups. Raycom owns stations in 36 markets and Scripps has properties in 24. Scripps’ largest market is Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota, Fla. (DMA 11). Raycom’s is Cleveland-Akron (DMA 18). The two companies overlap in just three markets — Cleveland-Akron, Cincinnati and Tucson, Ariz. “The partnership, with the combined reach of 29% of U.S. households — including 12 markets in the top 40 DMAs — creates an impressive footprint and a strong foundation for programs to have successful launches and development,” the press release said.
Specifically, Raycom and Scripps have agreed to combine their efforts “to create and grow new and original programming across daytime, early fringe and access dayparts,” according to the press release. “The partnership also will develop content for the companies’ vast digital products to attract multiple audiences who crave content when they want it across any of their devices,” it added.
This last point is crucial, Lee says. “Agents and production companies always ask: What are you looking for?” she told TVNewsCheck in a phone interview last Friday when she was asked if the Raycom-Scripps consortium is seeking ideas for any particular kinds of programming such as talk or game shows, for example.
“We’re looking for the next great idea. I don’t like to box shows into a genre,” she said. “What it does have to have — first and foremost — is a multiplatform strategy. Anyone who doesn’t think about programming that way is very short-sighted.
“And that means more than just talent [who] has a big social-media following. I’m talking about a true multiplatform strategy going in,” Lee said. “It’s worked for us.”
Indeed, the original programs that Scripps has produced up until now have all been designed to be assembled with segments that can also be broken off and posted separately on websites and streaming platforms. One of these segmented shows is The List, launched in 2012 and now seen on 15 Scripps stations. A second is Right This Minute, another show divided into news, entertainment, pop culture and lifestyle segments.
“Our short-form segments have a whole different audience than the broadcast audience [for The List and Right This Minute] in many cases, and that’s huge in this landscape,” Lee says.
Launched in 2011, Right This Minute is a co-production of Scripps, Raycom and Cox Media Group and airs on stations in all three groups — coverage the companies say represents 87% of the country. Raycom’s Reiner says the experience of co-producing Right This Minute led directly to the Scripps-Raycom joint-development agreement announced a few weeks ago.
“That was kind of our introduction into knowing that these are companies with like values and like needs that are both looking at developing original content to support their stations,” Reiner said.
Reiner and Lee are both acting as points of contact for the new Raycom-Scripps “consortium,” they said. They both emphasized that they are eager to hear from people with ideas for programming the two companies can produce and clear jointly.
“At the end of the day all of these station groups are built on news,” Lee said. “That is our bread and butter. That is our business. And so anything that is news-adjacent programming has worked well for us.”