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Struggling Sports Illustrated reaches deal to continue print edition

The Sports Museum curator Richard Johnson, right, stands near an exhibit that displays cover photos from the sports magazine Sports Illustrated in the museum at the TD Garden, in Boston, Dec. 17, 2015. Sports Illustrated will continue operations after the company that owns the brand reached an agreement with a new publisher for its print and digital products, Monday, March 18, 2024.

As mass layoffs threatened the demise of Sports Illustrated earlier this year, the venerable magazine’s owner has reached a deal with a digital media company to operate the publication and continue its print edition.

Minute Media, a global technology and sports content company, and Authentic Brands Group, a clothing and lifestyles brands platform that bought Sports Illustrated in 2019, announced a long-term agreement Monday “to usher in the future of the SI brand.” Minute Media obtained the publishing rights for the magazine across digital and print platforms.

“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,” Asaf Peled, founder and CEO of Minute Media, said in a press release.

Publisher at The Arena Group had operated Sports Illustrated in recent years. In late January, Authentic Brands said it had terminated The Arena Group’s publishing license, leading to widespread staffing cuts, NBC News reported.

Minute Media, best known for The Players’ Tribune and FanSided, also recently acquired SNT Video, which has rights to premium highlights from every major sports league in North America for online video platform distribution.

Sports Illustrated’s publishing portfolio includes Sport Illustrated, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit and Sports Illustrated Kids.

Minute Media will oversee all digital and print editorial operations across the SI portfolio, which has been the industry leader in dedicated sports journalism for decades, according to the press release. “Minute Media plans to leverage its premium sports content expertise as well as its technology platform that powers the creation, global distribution and monetization of hundreds of digital content brands, to continue to grow the Sports Illustrated media business.”

The magazine’s reputation for stellar sports journalism was tarnished last year when it was reported that it was posting stories that were written by artificial intelligence with bylines for authors who didn’t exist, including phony mug shots and bios. The Arena Group removed the pieces and launched an investigation but said it had licensed the content from another firm, which works with e-commerce companies.

Minute Media said it plans to honor the legendary status of Sports Illustrated by pushing toward technological innovation, catering to a wider audience while also maintaining the core mission of the brand as it did with Derek Jeter’s athlete-first storytelling platform, The Players’ Tribune, in 2021.

“In Minute Media we have found a partner that will honor SI’s lauded legacy and exceed fan expectations for the future,” said Daniel W. Dienst, Authentic’s executive vice chairman. “As Minute Media shepherds the SI brand across a rapidly evolving media landscape, our priority at Authentic is — and has always been — to protect its journalistic integrity and longevity.”

As part of the deal, Authentic will also acquire an equity stake in Minute Media.