Tegna has moved deeper into the quirky but active media realm of multicasting, announcing the launch of adventure and exploration network Quest, a partnership with multicast specialist Cooper Media.

The ad-supported network will debut in early 2018 on Tegna’s sizable station portfolio, and Tegna will retain an ownership stake. Cooper, named for executive chairman Lonnie Cooper, is known for the Justice Network, a multicast operation focused on mystery and investigations with a public-safety bent.

Multicast networks — whose growing ranks include the African-American-aimed Bounce, classic-TV destination Antenna and the sci-fi/horror-themed Comet — have arisen as broadcasters make use of new channel space resulting from TV industry’s transition from analog to digital signals over the past decade-plus. Multicast networks (sometimes called “digi-nets”) are seen as a low-overhead way to generate revenue and national reach, with the same over-the-air availability of the Big 4 broadcast networks.

Some of the ventures, notably Bounce, even have started producing scripted originals and put up Nielsen ratings in the millions, distinctions that still elude many national cable networks. Recognizing the growth opportunity, station group E.W. Scripps bought multicast backer Katz Broadcasting earlier this fall for $302 million.

Quest will “capture the wonder, imagination and excitement of the natural and man-made world,” according to the companies’ announcement. Its programming slate will feature shows about natural history, military history, engineering and science and human achievements.

“As part of Tegna’s ongoing content transformation initiative, we are always examining ways to reach new and underserved audiences through entertaining, informative and relevant content across platforms,” said Dave Lougee, president and CEO of Tegna. “Quest will do just that. It will offer engaging programming that will appeal to a national audience currently under-represented by multicast networks. Launching Quest across our portfolio is also a cost-effective and advantageous use of our valuable distribution capabilities.” 

Cooper CEO Steve Schiffman calls Quest “a fresh take on a nature and science factual entertainment network designed specifically for the growing over-the-air multicast audience.”