As of yesterday, E.W. Scripps (SSP) is officially splitting into two public companies; slow growth old media, and the faster growing cable and new media divisions. Scripps Networks Interactive is the one on the rise and it includes the highly-rated and highly-profitable cable TV networks, including HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network, and Great American Country.
It's bundling these fast-growing cable properties with the corresponding websites as well as Shopzilla and uSwitch, which enable comparison shopping. And this company will replace the previous E.W. Scripps Co. in the S&P 500.
I got a chance to interview Ken Lowe, who will be CEO of this new division. He said that despite interest form the media giants, he has no plans to sell off any of the company's assets. He also said that while there are no major acquisitions in the works, the company will be looking for purchases in the $25 to $50 million range.
The question now; can SPI build on its assets to become a branding and cable star? HGTV and Food Network have remarkably strong positions in home (called "shelter") and food entertainment with brands like Rachael Ray. Now the company is hoping to use the networks along with the websites to further expand that position by making its food and shelter info available 24/7 online. They're hoping to use the networks and websites to expand that role. The cable networks are profiting from the general trend of viewers shifting to cable, as well as the growing popularity of food and home design, thanks in part to the stars Food Network and HGTV helped create.
On the other hand, the company that remains under the ticker SSP includes the publishing and local TV networks part of the original E.W. Scripps company. And between the fundamental challenges to the sector and the economic downturn, it seems like a really rough time for this part of the business. are facing a host of cyclical and secular challenges. Behind the split is the strategy that on its own, it'll be easier to help these businesses. We'll see what, if anything, can help the publishing business!