Sports Illustrated’s editor explains why SI is launching a video service

Time Inc. (headquarters pictured) is the parent company of Sports Illustrated.
Chris Stone
Chris Stone

Sports Illustrated is launching its first SVOD service soon, and it will be born into a crowded online video landscape for sports where Amazon, Facebook and Twitter have all emerged as serious contenders for sports rights.

The service will play home to original series, documentaries, analysis from SI's roster of experts, fantasy sports shows and live and on-demand programming from sports and entertainment events and the brand’s extensions like the Swimsuit Issue and the annual Sportsperson of the Year celebration. SI Group publications like GOLF and The MMQB will also produce content for the platform.

SI hasn’t provided pricing details yet for the service and, as of now, the launch is slated for some time in the fall.

But the question is, why is SI doing this now? SI Group Editor in Chief Chris Stone said the publication has recently been accelerating the rate at which it’s producing both long- and short-form video content.

“We had all this great long-form content and we needed a better platform for it, frankly. One that we had greater control over. Of course we could pursue licensing deals but we wanted one of our own platforms that was something more than just putting it on,” Stone told FierceOnlineVideo. “With OTT, we think there’s a real opportunity to create a platform that aligns with the quality of the video we’re creating.”

Stone said the series that SI has been creating recently, including a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced sports true crime show, lend themselves well to the OTT platform format.

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Stone sees lots of opportunities for programming that will focus on not only sports but also lifestyle genres including wellness and food. In terms of what role live sports will play in the new service, Stone said SI does have plans but could not offer any details.

If and when SI does go after live sports, it may find itself up against the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Twitter. Amazon, of course, just won the right to stream NFL Thursday Night Football next season; Twitter is locking up streaming deals with MLB, WNBA and the PGA; and Facebook has been linked to potential deals with many leagues. It’s also likely that SI will have to compete against the likes of Facebook and Twitter in all forms of sports content, not just live games.

Stone welcomes those players to the sports content landscape.

“They are a growing essential part of the sports storytelling ecosystem. Some of that will be competitive, but other parts of it, I think, will be collaborative,” he said.

But Stone sounds confident that SI can differentiate itself in the space through its storytelling and the access it has to players and teams.

“I know we have the resources and talent in place to convert that premium storytelling through more traditional platforms into storytelling through more visual platforms,” Stone said.