Jun 18, 2024 –Business

Minute Media breathes new life into Sports Illustrated

SI cover
Olympian Athing Mu on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Paris 2024 Olympic print double issue, the first under Minute Media, SI’s new publishing rights holder. Image: courtesy Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated turns 70 years old this August, but Minute Media, which now holds the rights to publish under its name, believes its most lucrative days lie ahead.

Why it matters: Minute Media’s 10-year publishing deal has already changed the trajectory of the storied sports outlet.

  • The vast majority of employees who were laid off during the transition of Sports Illustrated’s publishing rights from The Arena Group earlier this year have been rehired, longtime Sports Illustrated editor-in-chief Steve Cannella told Axios.
  • “Minute has been extremely welcoming to SI,” Cannella said. “I think the culture here is fantastic. We feel extremely supported.”
  • “I think it feels like we’re getting back to normal,” he added.

Driving the news: Sports Illustrated just closed its first print issue under the the Minute Media umbrella last week. The edition, which features Olympian Athing Mu on the cover, is themed to the Paris Olympics and will be available on newsstands June 27.

  • “We’re very excited about print,” said Minute Media CEO Asaf Peled. The firm just published the 60th anniversary edition of Sports Illustrated Swim last month.
  • Cannella said the firm wants to focus more on building more direct relationships with its audience: “What we want to do is redefine what it means to be an SI writer, and lean into the ability that a lot of our talent has to be multi-platform personalities.”
  • Peled said Minute Media’s global reach can help expand Sports Illustrated globally. He also noted opportunities to scale Sports Illustrated’s business and reach by bringing the outlet onto its advertising and publishing tech platforms.

Zoom in: For Minute Media, the acquisition represents a lucrative opportunity.

  • While the brand is not profitable yet, Peled said he expects it to be “quite accretive to Minute Media’s financials both from a top line and from a bottom line standpoint in the relatively near future.”

Catch up quick: Minute Media was one of several companies vying for Sports Illustrated’s coveted publishing rights when they came up for grabs in January.

  • The firm, which is home to sports and entertainment sites like The Players’ Tribune and Mental Floss, was valued at more than $1 billion following its latest fundraising round earlier this year.
  • Minute Media has a 10-year license to publish Sports Illustrated’s print and digital editorial brands, including SI Swimsuit and SI Kids from Authentic Brands Group. Authentic Brands Group, a brand management company, still owns the Sports Illustrated brand outright.
  • The deal could be extended to 30 years, which would take the magazine through its centenary.

The big picture: Minute Media continues to grow despite a volatile publishing landscape, which means it can continue investing in Sports Illustrated’s growth for the foreseeable future.

  • The company expects to generate over $400 million in revenue this year, Peled said, up from roughly $300 million last year.

What to watch: Cannella said audiences should expect to see Sports Illustrated invest a lot more in coverage of women’s sports. “This is a huge focus for us,” he said.

The bottom line: “There’s a level of goodwill out there among audiences for this brand,” Cannella said.

  • “And now it’s time for us to start delivering to them in ways that they want… And I think that that makes the future really bright.”