Scripps' Rich Boehne Wants Local TV Broadcasters to Wake Up to Digital

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- E.W. Scripps (SSP) CEO Rich Boehne has been trying to bring TV broadcasters into the 21st century by remaking the websites of his local news operations so that they don't look and function like something out of the early-1990s.

As anyone who has watched local television news or accidentally visited a station's website knows full well, the format and user experience of local TV websites is anything but cutting-edge. Yet, local news remains a unique and coveted product. Reports on schools, neighborhood development, arts festivals, police and fire are enticing products if delivered in a digitally-friendly manner.

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Cincinnati-based Scripps went all-in on the notion that local TV broadcasters can make money from digital along with the comfortable revenue stream already generated by re-transmission agreements with pay-TV providers. In a deal enthusiastically embraced by shareholders of both Scripps and its merger partner Journal Communications  (JRN) of Milwaukee, the two companies agreed to combine their higher-growth TV and radio stations under the Scripps name. Meanwhile, Scripps' 13 newspapers will be combined with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel into a newly created company, Journal Media Group, to be headquartered in Milwaukee.

On news of the deal, Scripps shares jumped 8.5% to $21.68 while Journal Communications rocketed 24% to $10.88. The two companies combined have a market value of about $1.8 billion.

In WCPO.com, Scripps' online news operation for its flagship Cincinnati TV-station, Boehne has created a local television website with a paywall. It is the only one of its kind in the country, he said in a phone interview. Users of WCPO.com, like users of many newspaper websites, actually have to pay to see some of its content. 

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