SBJ/Feb. 14-20, 2011/Media

SI expects digital to help boost Swimsuit revenue 41%

Sports Illustrated is projecting a 41 percent increase in revenue this year from its iconic Swimsuit franchise, with the total boosted significantly by an array of new digital extensions.

Specific financial figures were not disclosed, but the print magazine, being released Tuesday, will be joined by a return of an iPhone application that saw more than 1 million downloads last year, new iPad and Android applications, a new model selection show on DirecTV that was to debut last Friday, and a partnership with Sony to bring Swimsuit video in both 2-D and 3-D through the PlayStation Network and Sony’s Qriocity video-on-demand service.

Swimsuit returns to iPhone, and adds iPad and Android apps.
Overall, Sports Illustrated will gain 55 percent of its Swimsuit revenue from print advertising, 30 percent from digital content sales and advertising, and 15 percent from experiential and event marketing.

The diverse delivery of Swimsuit content also speaks to a changing mind-set within the 57-year-old sports magazine. Over the past year, Sports Illustrated has begun to embrace new platforms such as the iPad and Google’s Chrome Web browser, but Swimsuit in many instances is serving as a test case toward potentially even larger digital extensions for SI.

“Swimsuit in a lot of ways is the test pilot in pushing SI in new directions,” said Mark Ford, Time Inc. Sports Group president. “There’s also a case to be made that Swimsuit is truly the original multiplatform program in the publishing world. The digital opportunities are absolutely great, but being on TV is also a big, important step for us.”

Ad pages in the print edition of the Swimsuit issue will reach 90, up from 72 last year and many of them with custom-designed creative for the issue. The total, however, is still down from about 100 in the peak days of print magazine advertising.

Swimsuit overall will represent 7 percent of SI’s annual revenue, and the 41 percent year-over-year revenue leap for the franchise is SI’s biggest one-year swing ever. Newsstand sales were about 925,000 for the 2010 edition; historically, the issue has sold about 1 million copies at newsstands each year.

Among the major advertisers in the issue are DirecTV, GMC, Chanel, Nissan, Lexus and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The iPhone and Android mobile applications will work on a freemium model in which there will be some free content, and then a $1.99 fee to access premium material. Twelve percent of the Swimsuit iPhone downloads last year were converted to premium-level purchasing, a total SI expects to grow significantly this year. The iPad application will sell for $6.99, the same as the print newsstand price, and feature additional photos, Web links, social media integration and more.

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