Vizio adds four Scripps channels to WatchFree Plus service

A Vizio smart television set and soundbar appears in an undated image.
A Vizio smart television set and soundbar appears in an undated image. (Photo courtesy Vizio, Graphic by The Desk)

Television hardware maker Vizio is adding several more channels programmed by the E.W. Scripps Company to its free, ad-supported streaming service.

The new channels — Ion, Ion Mystery, Grit Xtra and Bounce XL — join Scripp’s current events channels Newsy and Court TV on Vizio’s WatchFree Plus streaming service.

“We are pleased to be working with Scripps to expand their content offering on Vizio, helping us deliver on our commitment to provide endless entertainment options and enhanced consumer experiences,” Katherine Pond, a Vizio executive in charge of platform content and partnerships, said in a statement. “Thanks to these popular Scripps channels with some all-time consumer favorite shows, we can offer an ever-wider variety of free programming across genres and interests and bring more options to millions of WatchFree Plus viewers.”

The addition of the channels comes at a time when Vizio is increasingly focused on its streaming platform products, which are rolled into a single offering that Vizio calls Platform Plus. Earlier this month, Vizio said its Platform Plus streaming product earned $408.9 million, up 2 percent from last year.

Revenue from Vizio’s streaming products is still a fraction of the company’s overall revenue, with three-quarters of the company’s revenue still earned from sales of its smart television sets and soundbars. But sales of its electronics has been flat over the last several financial quarters, while revenue from its streaming platforms keeps going up.

On a recent conference call, company executives said they may subsidize the cost of their smart TV sets if it meant getting more people using its Platform Plus product. Already, over 16 million Vizio customers use Platform Plus, including WatchFree Plus — a number that continues to increase.

For Scripps, getting its streaming channels in front of millions of Vizio streaming users has a positive effect on their business as well.

“Our growing relationship with Vizio is part of the rapid expansion of our networks into connected TV and free streaming platforms,” Jeffrey Wolf, the chief distribution officer at Scripps, said in a statement. “Working with Vizio, we are able to reach more consumers and broaden the audience for our very popular brands and wide array of programming that entertains, informs and engages millions of consumers.”

The addition of Scripps programming also helps offer program diversity on the platform. Bounce XL is a streaming version of Scripps’ Bounce digital television network; both air movies and television shows that are aimed at a Black audience. Newsy, which relaunched last year, has affirmed a commitment to airing news stories that reflect issues affecting underserved communities across the country.

In addition to the Scripps channels, WatchFree Plus offers linear streams from FilmRise, Pluto TV and other programming partners.

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