Jonathan Katz

Exclusive: Comedy Multicast Net Launching on ABC, Scripps

Katz Broadcasting’s LAFF already covers 35% of U.S.

The TV stations owned by ABC and E.W. Scripps Co. plan to carry a new multicast comedy network being launched by Katz Broadcasting on April 15.

The new multicast network, called LAFF, already claims coverage of 35% of the country.

The ABC stations plan to continue to air the Live Well multicast network. ABC said it would stop producing new episodes of Live Well programming and will no longer syndicate the network to other station groups, such as Scripps.

ABC said that until LAFF launches in April, its stations will carry Live Well on both its D2 and D3 digital signals. When LAFF launches, it will air on the stations D3 channel. Live Well will remain on the D2 channels.

LAFF is aimed at adults 18-49, with a linear network carried by broadcast stations and cable systems, plus digital content at LAFF.com and a LAFF app.

Katz Broadcasting previously has launched several multicast networks. It has Grit, aimed at men, and Escape aimed at women. Its CEO, Jonathan Katz, is also COO of Bounce TV, the broadcast network aimed at African-American viewers.

Like streaming, multicast TV appears to be growing at a time when pay TV subscriptions are declining. Homes with broadband but no cable are up, as are broadcast only homes.

“In launching three television networks within ten months, we are clearly very bullish on the renaissance of free broadcast television,” Katz said in a statement. “This burgeoning new broadcast ecosystem resembles the early days of basic cable, expanding to offer viewers diverse new choices and complementing the growing number of over-the-top subscription services.”

While a lot of older sitcoms air on classic TV multicast networks LAFF intends to have more contemporary content, the company said.

"LAFF will be an excellent addition to our subchannel lineup," Rebecca Campbell, president of the ABC Owned Television Station Group, said. "We are also committed to keeping Live Well Network up and running in our own markets, so that we can continue to provide unique local programming and pursue corporate synergy opportunities."

The ABC Owned Television Stations will carry LAFF in New York (WABC-TV), Los Angeles (KABC-TV), Chicago (WLS-TV), Philadelphia (WPVI-TV), San Francisco (KGO-TV), Houston (KTRK-TV), Raleigh (WTVD-TV) and Fresno (KFSN-TV). 

E.W. Scripps Co. will launch LAFF on its stations in Detroit (WXYZ-TV), Phoenix (KNXV-TV), Tampa (WFTS-TV), Denver (KMGH-TV), Cleveland (WEWS-TV), Indianapolis (WRTV-TV), Baltimore (WMAR-TV), San Diego (KGTV-TV), Kansas City (KSHB-TV), Cincinnati (WCPO-TV), West Palm Beach (WPTV-TV), Buffalo (WKBW-TV) and Tulsa  (KJRH-TV).

“The ABC Owned Television Stations and E.W. Scripps Company stations are among the strongest players in their DMAs, which include the biggest markets in the country.  We are thrilled and proud to have these two preeminent groups as our charter distribution partners for LAFF,” added Katz Broadcasting chief distribution officer Jeffrey Wolf. “We look forward to welcoming more station groups to the LAFF family.” 

ABC launched Live Well six years ago, featuring original programs about cooking, shelter and fitness. ABC previously said it would go dark this month on affiliate stations, but that it planned to continue to air the shows on its owned stations, with no new episodes being produced.

In its heyday, Live Well aired about a dozen half-hours of original programming daily and was carried in 64% of the country. But classic TV series on multicast networks like Me-TV turned out to be tough competition.

Gannett, which had carried Live Well previously agreed to carry the Justice Network, a new service from Lonnie Cooper, another founder of Bounce TV.  Justice Network is run by three senior TV execs, former Nat Geo exec Steve Schiffman, former Discovery exec John Ford, and former NBCUniversal exec Barry Wallach.