The E.W. Scripps Company will pay more than $2.6 billion for the ION Media, the national programmer behind the Ion television network, the companies announced in a joint statement on Thursday.
The move includes Ion’s national cable and satellite feeds as well as more than 60 owned-and-operated local broadcast stations that affiliate with the network.
As part of the acquisition, Scripps intends to replace several digital subchannels currently carrying Ion and third-party paid and home shopping programming with digital over-the-air networks from its Katz Broadcasting subsidiary, according to investor relations material reviewed by The Desk.
Currently, over-the-air Ion stations carry two Ion programming feeds, simulcasts of the Home Shopping Network and QVC and a children’s network called Qubo.
Scripps operates a handful of its own digital-only broadcast networks through its Katz Broadcasting subsidiary, including Laff, Grit, Court TV, Court TV Mystery and Bounce. Those channels are offered to other programmers, including TEGNA, Sinclair, Nexstar and Univision.
As its contracts with those third party programmers start to expire, Scripps says it will move the Katz networks over to Ion stations. Scripps will also eventually launch Newsy on Ion stations, making the streaming news network available on broadcast television for the first time since it launched in 2014.
To satisfy regulatory requirements, Scripps says it will divest 23 Ion-owned broadcast stations to a third-party buyer once it acquires the national network. The buyer, who was not named in materials published by Scripps on Thursday, has agreed to continue affiliating with Ion for the foreseeable future and will begin airing Katz channels and Newsy as part of the deal.
Scripps says it will continue selling national advertising on the divested stations, suggesting its plans to divest the station will take the form of a local marketing or shared services agreement. Those agreements are common when a programmer needs to sell or swap a certain number of stations to satisfy regulatory requirements but still wants to control and profit from the divested stations.