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Volume 24 No. 160
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Time Inc. Sports Group President Mark Ford Talks About SI's Latest TV Venture

The first episode of "Sports Illustrated" is launching tomorrow on NBC Sports Network at 9:00pm ET, and the hour-long show will highlight four stories: Orioles prospect Dylan Bundy, MMA, open-water swimmer Alex Meyer and the '92 Dream Team scrimmage. This show is the first in the series, which will run at least five episodes, with ­ three appearing on NBCSN and two on NBC. THE DAILY spoke with Time Inc. Exec VP & Sports Group President Mark Ford about what viewers can expect from the series.

Q: What can we expect from these shows?
Ford: Most sports media companies are about live games. What makes us unique is that we're all about the storytelling, the personalities in sports, the story behind the story, and deliver that through great writing and great photography. Now, we're taking that to television.

Q: It sounds like it will look a lot like ESPN's "Outside the Lines" and HBO's "Real Sports."
Ford: You never try to duplicate what someone else is doing. We have a lot of respect for HBO and "Real Sports." What we're going to do is what we do well. We're not patterning ourselves after anybody. We are patterning ourselves behind what our brand is about. We want to maintain that integrity. It won't be a documentary. It will be storytelling, and we hope it will be interesting and exciting. Everything I've seen to date looks pretty good.

Q: What is Sports Illustrated's TV strategy?
Ford: We have an overall strategy, which is not limited to delivering our storytelling through writers and photography through a print version. We do that online. TV is just another element of that story telling.

Q: Why did you choose to partner with NBC Sports Network on this show?
Ford: We're going to do the five shows with them. We're hopeful that this will extend on for years to come. What's different about this is that we have a partner that is really an equal partner in NBC Sports that really appreciates our brand. [NBC Sports President of Programming] Jon Miller and [NBC Sports Chair] Mark Lazarus really understand what's unique about Sports Illustrated. They've been a great partner to work with. They've been extremely respectful of our brand positioning and our editorial integrity. They let [SI Editor] Terry McDonell really be the executive producer.

Q: Why are you partnering with NBC when you have a sister company at Turner Sports that has sports? Why not go in house?
Ford: We're always talking to Turner. We have done deals with Turner in the past. We did a Swimsuit show with TNT. We've done segments on CNN over the years. I'm hopeful that there will be some other opportunities that we can work with Turner on. I'm not ruling out Turner. I have a lot of respect for [Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports] David Levy. We're always talking about where that opportunity is. We don't rule out any partner. We have other ideas in the pipeline around Sportsman of the Year. We don't have a situation where it's an exclusive partnership on TV. We love NBC. Maybe that will become a bigger deal. We don't exclude anybody from partnering. One of our strengths is that we can have this independence because we don't do live games.