E.W. Scripps announces formation of new sports division

CINCINNATI (AP) — The E.W. Scripps Company has announced the launch of a sports division as it looks acquire local and national rights for teams and leagues.

Scripps has stations in 61 markets and is the nation’s fourth-largest local TV broadcaster. It also purchased ION Media last year, which has the fifth-largest national broadcast viewership.

Scripps sports could serve as an alternative or additional outlet for teams looking beyond regional sports networks, which have encountered financial difficulties in recent years.

Brian Lawlor, who has led Scripps’ local media division since 2009, will become the president of the sports division. He will also continue his role with local media until a possible replacement is named.

“Sports is one of the most important content genres in television, with its consistently large and dedicated audiences,” Lawlor said in a statement. “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.”

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