YouTube TV inks carriage deal with Scripps Networks, includes rebranded Scripps News

YouTube TV and Scripps Networks have entered an expanded carriage agreement, launching this week ION, Bounce and Scripps News channels on the virtual MVPD.

The multi-year deal brings programming that ranges from ION’s collection of procedural dramas, such as “Blue Bloods” and “NCIS,” to Bounce’s African-American-oriented shows, like “Saints and Sinners” and the network’s latest original series “Act Your Age.”

The most notable addition is national news-oriented Scripps News, which rebranded from Newsy on January 1. When announcing the name change back in September, Scripps CEO Adam Symson noted the rebrand, which would consolidate Scripps’ news content into a single offering, “reflects our company’s longstanding commitment and belief that journalism is central to our mission.”

YouTube TV has carried Scripps’ Court TV since May 2020. The expanded agreement also gives the vMVPD the option to launch the Grit, ION Mystery and Laff channels in the future.

"We believe our diversified portfolio of networks will help strengthen YouTube TV as a pay TV option for consumers and are excited to be part of their continued growth in the marketplace,” stated Jeffrey Wolf, Scripps’ Networks’ chief distribution officer, adding Scripps looks forward to expanding its relationship with the vMVPD and its parent company Google.

Scripps’ carriage agreement with YouTube TV comes about a month after the broadcaster signed a distribution deal with FuboTV, which saw seven channels join the service. Scripps networks are also available as free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels via Vizio’s WatchFree+, Samsung TV Plus, Tubi, Pluto TV, among other platforms.

Scripps’ multi-platform distribution has fueled the company’s advertising revenue. During Q3 earnings, Symson said increased streaming prices, coupled with a tough macroeconomic environment, have given Scripps “greater opportunities for free TV, both over-the-air and on connected TV.”

Aside from expanding the reach of its existing networks, Scripps in December launched a sports division, which aims to showcase leagues and players “that are currently limited by aging distribution deals” across Scripps’ broad national footprint.

YouTube has also further entrenched itself in the sports space, as the platform will stream the NFL’s highly sought-after Sunday Ticket package starting this year. Sunday Ticket will be available either as an add-on for YouTube TV or a la carte via YouTube’s Primetime Channels.

YouTube TV’s subscriber count is steadily climbing, topping 5 million users last summer, but pay TV isn’t YouTube’s only focus. A recent Wall Street Journal report suggests YouTube is interested in hosting linear channels from A&E, Cinedigm, among other providers. The channels would build upon YouTube’s existing collection of free movies and TV shows.

But TVREV’s Alan Wolk thinks YouTube’s FAST will likely see little traction, given YouTube so far hasn’t promoted its free offering as much as YouTube TV or YouTube Premium. Still, he points out linear channels “are a great way to surface library content, increase time spent on platform and reduce choice overload.”