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Volume 26 No. 51

Media

Sports Illustrated Editor-in-Chief Chris Stone said that Authentic Brands will take over developing "new revenue streams" for SI "without any input from the publisher's editorial or sales teams" after buying the magazine from Meredith Corp. for $110M, according to Max Willens of DIGIDAY. Such deals had previously been "often done with input from SI's editors." Though publishers "typically take great pains to keep editors involved in anything related to a publisher's brand, this arrangement suits Stone just fine." He said, "We didn't have the infrastructure or the resources to really create a great licensing strategy." Stone also said that SI's other revenue streams, such as e-commerce and events, also "fell on his department's shoulders during SI's stay with Meredith." Stone said that during those years, SI "never met with Meredith's brand licensing operation." Over the years, SI has "tried numerous times to diversify into brand licensing revenue, licensing its brand for products ranging from children's golf clubs to, more recently, a line of women's bathing suits tied to SI's famous swimsuit issue." However, a source said that those revenues were "small, relative to SI's advertising business." The source added that across SI's lifetime, the "branded merchandise program might amount to revenues in the high seven figures" (DIGIDAY.com, 5/29).

TRIAL PERIOD: The AP's Tali Arbel wrote it is "not clear what will happen after two years" with SI, with Meredith continuing to handle responsibilities such as publishing the print magazine and managing the website. It is possible that Meredith and Authentic could "extend their licensing deal, terms for which weren't disclosed." Meredith has "long published Martha Stewart Living magazine under a licensing deal." Meredith VP/Corporate Communications Jill Davison said, "We believe we will have similar, great success developing the vitality and profitability of Sports Illustrated." Davison added that Meredith and Authentic will "evaluate the partnership after two years" (AP, 5/28).

Some felt Smith and Wilbon did not push back on Johnson's claims about the story
Photo: MAGIC JOHNSON

Stephen A. Smith spent most of yesterday "lighting into" the ESPN report from Baxter Holmes on the Lakers' issues, "not based on the story's merits, but because he didn't like it," according to Andrew Bucholtz of AWFUL ANNOUNCING. The story as a whole has "a lot of interesting information," but viewers "wouldn’t know that from ESPN’s TV coverage, much of which wound up being an extended defense of [Magic] Johnson and an extended tear-down of their own reporting." Smith in particular was "just criticizing the existence of this story." It got "particularly rough when Johnson appeared on the network himself alongside Smith and Michael Wilbon." Both Wilbon and Smith "just let Johnson bash the story without actually providing evidence it was wrong" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 5/28). In N.Y., Dennis Young writes Smith is "known as a team player at ESPN, and he tried to toe the company line in his various appearances" yesterday. He said Holmes "did a great job reporting" the story on the Lakers. But it is "obvious how Smith really feels, and that he values his relationship with Magic enough to go after a piece of reporting his own company reported" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/29).

TWITTER REAX: Social media reacted yesterday to Smith's treatment of Johnson while on the air. SI's Chris Mannix tweeted, "The warm embrace Magic Johnson received on ESPN yesterday was embarrassing. No pushback. Ignoring obvious followups. @Baxter wrote an insightful, thorough story on the inner workings on the Lakers and ESPN let Magic come on the air and dump all over it." N.Y. Times' Sopan Deb: "Johnson being allowed by two friendly ESPN hosts to address ESPN's own negative reporting with zero pushback." The Boston Globe's Chad Finn called the treatment "pathetic."

ESPN is "betting more on Snapchat" than ever before despite other publishers like the N.Y. Times and Bleacher Report having "paused their channels," according to Kerry Flynn of DIGIDAY. For ESPN, producing shows on Snapchat "aligns with their digital strategy of meeting sports fans in places they already are." Snapchat also has "proven to be a useful way to make revenue and to direct viewers to ESPN on television and to content on ESPN+." ESPN was a "launch partner of Snapchat Discover," the social media platform's method for quickly exploring friends' and publishers' stories. Each of ESPN's Snapchat shows "varies in their viewership size." As a daily morning show, “SportsCenter” has "created a routine audience of millions of viewers." More than 60% of the audience "tuned in three or more times per week" in Q4 of '18. Overall, more than 65% of ESPN’s Snapchat audience is 24 years old and under, and "more than 90% of the audience is under 35." ESPN makes money on Snapchat by "selling ads ... in each of their shows." An ESPN spokesperson declined to say if the effort was "profitable but categorized the usage and monetization as strong" (DIGIDAY.com, 5/28).