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Iconic US magazine Sports Illustrated gets publishing lifeline

An issue of Sports Illustrated pictured in New York in 2021
An issue of Sports Illustrated pictured in New York in 2021 - Copyright AFP/File Fabrice COFFRINI
An issue of Sports Illustrated pictured in New York in 2021 - Copyright AFP/File Fabrice COFFRINI

Sports Illustrated, one of America’s most storied magazines, saw an end to months of limbo Monday as a new 10-year publishing deal was announced.

The periodical had been dragged into a payment dispute between the company that owns the intellectual property rights to it, Authentic Brands Group (ABG), and its publisher, Arena Group. 

The latter announced layoffs in January and later said the magazine’s print edition would be axed in the summer.

On Monday, the turmoil appeared to have subsided as Sports Illustrated’s owner said it has chosen a new company to publish the magazine, Minute Media, for a 10 year deal. 

The new arrangement is expected to preserve the print edition of the magazine.

London-based Minute Media already owns several sports websites including The Players’ Tribune and 90min, as well as sports video highlights platform STN Video. 

“Sports Illustrated is the gold standard for sports journalism and has been for nearly 70 years across both print and digital media. The weight and power of that distinction cannot be understated,” said Asaf Peled, CEO of Minute Media. 

In a joint press release with Sports Illustrated and ABG, Minute Media said it planned to push the publication to “technological innovation, catering to a wider audience on a global scale.”

Minute Media’s license with Sports Illustrated features an option to extend for up to 30 years. 

ABG said in January it had revoked a licensing deal with Arena Group after it missed a quarterly payment.

Sports Illustrated, first published in 1954, became a hit among athletes and fans owing to its color photos and long-form storytelling, and was the first US magazine to reach the threshold of one million copies sold per week. 

It later branched out to include an annual Swimsuit Issue which featured models and athletes pictured in swimwear in exotic locations around the world. 

At its heyday in the early 1990s, print circulation neared 3.5 million but the magazine has since been reduced to monthly publication, in addition to its website.

“Minute Media has successfully proven that they are leading the way in a new era of sports storytelling, and we are excited and optimistic about this partnership and the future of Sports Illustrated as the preeminent lens into sport,” said Daniel Dienst, executive vice chairman of ABG.  

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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