Publishing deal keeps Sports Illustrated in print

A new publishing deal between Authentic Brands Group and Minute Media will keep the famed Sports Illustrated magazine in print. The magazine's fate had been murky after the parent company's marketing license had been revoked, with most of its employees getting laid off.



March 19, 2024 - 1:50 PM

A Sports Illustrated magazine is seen on a book store shelf on Jan. 23, 2015, in Miami. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images/TNS

In a game-changer for one of journalism’s most-recognizable institutions, Sports Illustrated is getting another chance.

SI’s long-running print magazine will continue to publish through a new deal between its owner, Authentic Brands Group, and the digital company Minute Media, according to an announcement Monday.

The agreement grants publishing rights for both web and print to Minute Media, which also operates the sports websites FanSided and the Derek Jeter-founded Players’ Tribune.

The deal comes two months after Authentic Brands revoked the marketing license of The Arena Group, which had operated SI since 2019. Arena announced in January its plans to lay off much of the Sports Illustrated staff, and last week told employees the final print magazine would publish in May, according to The New York Times.

Minute Media intends to continue print operations and to rehire employees who were laid off, chief executive Asaf Peled told The Times in an interview published Monday. The deal reportedly gives Minute Media the SI license for at least 10 years with an option that can expand to 30.

“Sports Illustrated is the gold standard for sports journalism and has been for nearly 70 years across both print and digital media,” Peled said in a statement.

“The weight and power of that distinction cannot be understated. At Minute Media, our focus will be to take that legacy into new, emerging channels enhancing visibility, commercial viability and sustainable impact, all while ensuring that the SI team is inspired to flourish in this new era of media.”

June 9 will mark the 70th anniversary of Sports Illustrated’s first published magazine. SI became a staple of sports culture, with its weekly covers commemorating the feats of all-time greats such as Jeter, Muhammad Ali and LeBron James, who was famously featured while still in high school.

But a changing media landscape in the digital era presented challenges for Sports Illustrated. It faced controversy last fall when the website Futurism reported fake authors featuring artificially-created headshots populated Sports Illustrated’s webpages. At the time, Arena Group denied that SI posted AI-generated stories, claiming the “articles in question were product reviews and were licensed content from an external, third-party company, AdVon Commerce.”

In a statement Monday, the Sports Illustrated Union said it welcomed the arrival of Minute Media, which reportedly boasts annual revenue exceeding $400 million through its portfolio of publications.

“We have said from the start that our top priorities are to keep Sports Illustrated alive, uphold the legacy of the institution and protect our union jobs,” said Emma Baccellieri, an SI staff writer and the union’s vice chair. “We look forward to discussing a future with Minute Media that does that.”

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