CINCINNATI—The E.W. Scripps Company is launching a new Scripps Sports division as part of a plan to expand its presence in sports and to build on its local and national reach to develop new relationships with sports leagues for sports distribution.
Brian Lawlor, who has led the company’s Local Media division since 2009, will assume the role of president of the new division.
In announcing the launch, Scripps noted that its acquisition of ION Media last year gives it unparalleled national reach through over-the-air broadcast, pay TV and connected TV and that changes in the television landscape and in the sports marketplace are open opportunities for new models to partner on live sports distribution.
“There is no better way to reach every generation of sports fan than through live broadcast television,” said Adam Symson, Scripps’ president and CEO. “Scripps is working with the leagues and teams that recognize the role our assets can play in increasing reach and visibility for audience engagement. In addition, Brian Lawlor is a highly regarded broadcast executive who has transformed our local media business – building the division from 10 TV stations in 2009 to 61 today. For the last year, he has already been leading the Scripps sports plan, bringing the same commitment to entrepreneurship and creativity for the company.”
In addition to the market depth of 61 local stations, ION boasts the fifth-largest national broadcast viewership and reaches 100% of U.S. television households through broadcast, cable/satellite and connected TV platforms. It can run localized, regionalized and national programming since Scripps controls all operations, the company said.(opens in new tab)
“Sports is one of the most important content genres in television, with its consistently large and dedicated audiences,” Lawlor said. “But the sports viewing marketplace has become extremely fragmented. Cable subscriptions are down, and regional sports networks are challenged, keeping fans from watching their home teams. Between our vast number of local stations and ION, a national network that can be customized in many markets, we believe Scripps is positioned to widely showcase leagues and players that are currently limited by aging distribution deals.”
Beyond the sports provided by its affiliated networks, Scripps has a long history of acquiring sports rights for local markets including the National Football League, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, National Women’s Soccer League and multiple college sports rights, including several Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the Big Sky Conference.
Lawlor serves on the board of Misfits Gaming, one of esports’ top gaming companies, with professional teams in the League of Legends, Overwatch and Call of Duty Leagues. He is a board member of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Broadcasters Foundation of America. Lawlor also serves on the advisory board of the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is a past chairman of the ABC Board of Governors and a former president and chairman of the NBC Affiliates Board. He also previously served as the television board chairman for the NAB.
Broadcasting & Cable magazine named him “Broadcaster of the Year” in 2012 and one of the “80 Most Influential People in Television.” In 2021, Radio + Television Business Report named him “Broadcast Television’s Best Leader.”
Lawlor will continue to report to Symson. He also will continue to lead Local Media while Scripps works to identify its next steps for division leadership.
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George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.
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