SBJ/June 2-8, 2014/Media

SI launching an all-soccer site

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Sports Illustrated this week will launch Planet Futbol, a new stand-alone site dedicated to year-round coverage of soccer.

The visual template for Planet Futbol, to debut this week, differs from that of SI.com
The new destination, at planetfutbol.com, is the fifth vertical SI has created in the last 18 months, following The MMQB with Peter King, SI Swim Daily, Extra Mustard and SI Edge. An outgrowth of a previous Planet Futbol soccer blog from SI soccer writer Grant Wahl, the new site will feature extensive contributions from Wahl, fellow staffer Brian Straus and a large group of other correspondents.

The timing of the launch of Planet Futbol is clearly geared toward the start of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. But SI executives said there is now more than enough fan and advertiser interest to support a dedicated destination to soccer.

“This is a continuation of the strategy we’ve been on, whether it be MMQB, Swim Daily or these other destinations. The fan appetite in these areas is voracious, we want to serve that interest, and we believe all boats within our operation are lifted by adding these things,” said Paul Fichtenbaum, Time Inc. Sports Group editor.

Planet Futbol will feature a mix of text, video, audio and photos. But similar to TheMMQB.com, it will not feature live game rights and instead will be a journalistic-driven effort.

Initial advertisers for the new site include Marriott, Degree, Edge Shave Gel, Hublot, Canon and Gatorade.

“When we decide to launch a vertical, we want to be sure that we can do it well and engage audiences on their preferred devices,” said Brendan Ripp, SI publisher. “With Planet Futbol, we are tapping into a passion among our staff, our clients and a vastly growing global fan base. This has been a successful formula for all of our recent franchise launches and a vital element to our momentum and growth.”

Additional site extensions with SI Digital are under consideration, Fichtenbaum said, including one for college football.

The visual template of Planet Futbol also veers away from SI.com and many grid-based sports sites, and is designed to “inject as much flexibility as possible, both on the front end and back end,” Fichtenbaum said.

The arrival of Planet Futbol extends a wave of growth for SI’s digital operations. Its total of 19.2 million uniques in April’s comScore rankings of the most trafficked U.S. sports sites was up 24 percent from the same month last year, and individual elements within SI’s rollup number such as TheMMQB.com and Swim Daily have posted their own runs of double-digit percentage audience increases.

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