ABC, Scripps to launch LAFF

laff-logoABC, Scripps stations clear new diginet; ABC to keep LiveWell after all

ABC and Scripps Broadcasting announced this weekend they are launching a brand new digital subchannel called LAFF, injunction with Katz Communications beginning on April 15, “tax day”.

Details on what the planned comedy network would carry (hint: you can’t go wrong with Mystery Science Theater 3000 reruns) were sketchy, but the fare would include “contemporary” off-network sitcoms and movies, according to a statement released by Katz. LAFF plans to have an accompanying website (Laff.com) and app.

The new diginet is being carried on the eight stations owned by ABC, including WLS-TV in Chicago, being slotted on their D3 (7.3 locally) channels. Other ABC markets carrying LAFF include New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham, and Fresno.

Scripps-owned markets carrying the channel include Detroit, Phoenix, Tampa-St, Petersburg, Denver, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Baltimore, San Diego, Kansas City (KSHB), Cincinnati, West Palm Beach, Buffalo, and Tulsa.

The Journal Communications Group, which Scripps acquired last year, is not included in the deal, meaning WTMJ in Milwaukee and WGBA in Green Bay Wis, among other former Journal stations, won’t carry the channel, at least not right away.

Together, the clearances total 35 percent of the country, with a plan to add more station groups.

Katz Communications (not to be confused with rep agency Katz Media Group) has launched three other digital subchannel networks: Grit (targeted to men, available on WGBO-Ch. 66.3); Escape (targeted to women, on WXFT-Ch. 60.3); and Bounce (African-Americans, on WCIU-Ch. 26.5) LAFF would be its fourth, and its first with ABC and Scripps. Katz Communications was founded by Jonathan Katz, a former Turner exec.

Meanwhile, ABC has had a change of heart on the Live Well Network, the six-year old digital subchannel airing in the ABC O&O’s D2 channels. Even though no more new programming is being produced, ABC has decided to keep Live Well for the foreseeable future, at least on its owned stations. ABC-owned stations president Rebecca Campbell noted the group decided to keep Live Well “so that we can continue to provide unique local programming and pursue corporate synergy opportunities.” In addition to Live Well programming, WLS here has been airing same-day repeats of Windy City Live.

Last week, Live Well affiliate WBAY (also a primary ABC affiliate) noted on its website ABC’s decision to keep Live Well running in the interim. It is not known if ABC plans to keep airing Live Well in high-definition. When it was first launched six years ago, it was originally known as Live Well HD.

The arrival of LAFF comes as the diginet world is becoming more crowded and competitive. Last month, Weigel announced it was launching Heroes & Icons (airing locally on WCIU-Ch. 26.4), and already has a few clearances, including KSTP in Minneapolis. Weigel is also launching Decades with the CBS-owned stations. Another diginet in the works is The Justice Network.

But with ABC keeping Live Well on its D2 channels, it shuts out many newcomers looking to land prime real estate in the nation’s largest markets.

This story was first reported on Broadcasting & Cable website Sunday.

 

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