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Sports Illustrated will continue its print edition under a new publisher

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.
Steven Senne
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.

Sports Illustrated will continue operations after the company that owns the brand agreed with a new publisher for its print and digital products.

Minute Media took over on Monday after reaching a licensing agreement with Authentic Brands Group. On Jan. 19, Authentic announced that it was revoking The Arena Group's publishing license after Arena failed to make a quarterly payment.

Authentic had been in negotiations with Arena, Minute Media and other publishing entities over the past two months.

Authentic will acquire an equity stake in Minute Media, which also publishes the online sites The Players' Tribune, FanSided and 90min. Other terms, including the length of the deal, were not announced.

"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. 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," Minute Media founder and CEO Asaf Peled said in a statement.

What this means for the writers and others who produce Sports Illustrated remains to be seen. Minute Media will begin meeting with SI employees over the next couple of weeks as it determines how much of the staff it will retain, according to a person with knowledge of the transition. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about them.

SI co-Editor in Chief Stephen Cannella told employees in a memo to continue operating as if it were business as usual for now.

"We have said from the start that our top priorities are to keep Sports Illustrated alive, uphold the legacy of the institution and protect our union jobs. We look forward to discussing a future with Minute Media that does that," said Emma Baccellieri, an SI staff writer and vice chair of the employee union that the NewsGuild represents.

The Arena Group acquired publishing rights from Authentic in 2019 for at least 10 years, but it had many hurdles. In December, it fired chief executive officer Ross Levinsohn when the magazine's alleged use of AI-generated stories drew public backlash.

Sports Illustrated has had a rough six years. It was acquired by Meredith Publishing in 2018 as part of the purchase of Time Inc., which started the magazine in 1954.

Less than a year later, Meredith sold the magazine's intellectual property to Authentic for $110 million. Authentic owns the intellectual property of many brands and stars, including Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali and Reebok.

Once a weekly publication, Sports Illustrated was reduced to biweekly publishing in 2018 and became a monthly in 2020.

"In Minute Media, we have found a partner that will honor SI's lauded legacy and exceed fan expectations for the future. 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," Daniel W. Dienst, Authentic's executive vice chairman, tactical ops, said in a statement. "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."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
[Copyright 2024 NPR]