Over the holiday weekend, Meredith Corp. made a bold move when it sold Sports Illustrated to the Authentic Brands Group (ABG) for $110 million.
ABG is taking over marketing, business development and licensing functions for Sports Illustrated’s intellectual property and brand. The print magazine and SI.com will maintain editorial independence, and continue to operate under Editor-in-Chief Chris Stone and Publisher Danny Lee.
In a news release, Stone said the ABG deal should help events and conferences, licensing, gambling and gaming, and IP development, especially in video and TV. The companies’ global partnership covers print, digital, mobile, video, social and broadcast television, so Sports Illustrated’s $5-per-month (or $50-per-year) streaming video service, SI TV, will likely be a big part of that.
Sports Illustrated announced SI TV back in 2017 before initially launching it later that year on Amazon Channels. In 2018, the service expanded availability to other platforms including Android, iOS and Roku.
SI TV launched with a library of licensed films (many of them sports focused) along original series and documentaries. When FierceVideo spoke with Stone in 2017, he said Sports Illustrated was looking for a better platform for all the digital video content it was creating.
“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 SI.com,” Stone said.
SI TV has since expanded its lineup of original and licensed content but it still doesn’t feature live sports, and that may have caused the service to fall out of the typical conversations about sports streaming that are dominated by ESPN+ and DAZN.
ESPN+ launched in 2018, and says it has more than 2 million subscribers. Disney expects ESPN+ will grow to between 8 million and 12 million by 2024. DAZN, which also launched in the U.S. in 2018, says it now has more than 4 million subscribers. And, there are lots of other sports streaming services like Bleacher Report Live and CBS Sports HQ that have emerged as competitors in the sports streaming landscape.
SI TV hasn’t revealed its subscriber totals, so it’s unclear how big of an audience ABG will be getting to start. But, ABG is a marketing company with some significant sports clients and brands (Shaquille O’Neal, Greg Norman) so the company could be well positioned to raise the profile of SI TV in an increasingly competitive space.