Scripps Picks Up UK Home Services Vertical

The E.W. Scripps Co. has expanded its online footprint with a $366 million acquisition of U.K. vertical search site uSwitch.

The site helps home and personal finance service providers acquire new customers who have expressed an interest in finding a new provider. Consumers can use the comparison shopping engine to compare rates and sign up with providers of gas, electricity, home phone, digital television, broadband, credit cards, and secured and unsecured personal loans. USwitch is most similar to the LowerMyBills.com service in the U.S., which was acquired by Experian Interactive last year for $380 million.

The uSwitch service is free to consumers, and marketers pay only when they acquire a customer via the service. There is no advertising on the uSwitch.com site.

“For providers, this is marketing money that’s truly well spent,” Kenneth Lowe, Scripps president and CEO, said during a conference call with analysts today. “The same utility that Shopzilla brings to searching for products, uSwitch brings to search for services.”

Scripps paid $366 million (£210 million) in cash for all outstanding shares of the six-year-old, privately held company. USwitch will continue to operate as a freestanding entity, with its founders and employees intact. It will operate under Tim Peterman, Scripps’ SVP of interactive media, in a division created last June with the $525 million acquisition of comparison shopping engine Shopzilla. Based in Los Angeles, Shopzilla is expanding into Europe with offices in the U.K. and Web sites in the U.K., France and Germany.

Scripps also has a significant online presence through its local newspaper and broadcast TV sites, as well as the sites for HGTV, DIY Network, Fine Living and Food Network.

uSwitch has developed a series of calculators which evaluate several factors including price, type of service, location and payment method, all designed to help consumers find the best deal and enable them to conveniently switch their service provider online.

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