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Scripps Buys Ion Media For $2.65 Billion, Creates Powerful National TV Business

Fern Siegel

The E.W. Scripps Company says it plans to buy broadcast network ION Media for $2.65 billion. It will combine ION with Scripps’ Katz networks and Newsy streamer to create a national television networks business.

ION owns 71 television stations in 62 markets and 124 affiliated TV stations; the company says it reaches 96% of U.S. homes. It claims the fifth-largest average prime-time audience among all cable-carried networks. (As part of the deal, Scripps will divest 23 ION stations.)

The FCC must also approve the deal.

“This transaction is another in a long list of Scripps’ transformative moves to where we see opportunity for growth and to benefit from the evolving media landscape,” said Scripps president-CEO Adam Symson. He added the acquisition will make Scripps “a more powerful and durable media business with significant near-term benefit as well as long-term value.”

To finance the transaction, Berkshire Hathaway will make a $600 million preferred equity investment in Scripps. The union of ION, Katz and Newsy is expected to produce run-rate synergies estimated at $120 million a year.

Speaking on an TVN’s OTT News Summit panel this week, Socrates Lozano, senior director of OTT content at the E.W. Scripps Co., said that his station group is working to get OTT channels up in each of its markets.

Scripps first launched OTT programming centered on prime-time news. “But once the pandemic hit and suddenly audiences started coming into the stream, wanting answers, we ended up expanding to a very aggressive 24/7 strategy plan overnight,” Lozano said, “which was definitely a huge pivot.”