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Struggling Sports Illustrated inks deal to stay afloat following partnership

The digital sports media company said it had reached an agreement with owner Authentic Brands to run the iconic publication in a “long-term partnership.”
Sports Illustrated magazines
Sports Illustrated magazines.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

The owner of Sports Illustrated came to an agreement with digital media company Minute Media, officials said Monday, to operate the iconic magazine, two months after mass layoffs appeared to signal the publication's demise.

Authentic Brands, which also owns a host of clothing and lifestyle brands, purchased the sports magazine in 2019; it had been operated in recent years by publishers at The Arena Group.

Then in late January, Authentic Brands said it had terminated The Arena Group’s publishing license, leading to widespread staffing cuts.

Minute Media, best known for The Players’ Tribune and FanSided, said it's reached a deal with Authentic to keep Sports Illustrated going.

"Minute Media will oversee all digital and print editorial operations across the SI portfoliowhich has been the industry leader in dedicated sports journalism for decades," Minute Media said in a statement.

"Minute Media plans to leverage its premium sports content expertise as well as its technology platform that powers the creation, global distribution and monetization of hundreds of digital content brands, to continue to grow the Sports Illustrated media business."

The magazine suffered a reputation blow late last year when it was disclosed that stories written by an artificial intelligence tool had been published.

“In Minute Media we have found a partner that will honor SI’s lauded legacy and exceed fan expectations for the future," Authentic Executive Vice Chairman Daniel W. Dienst said in a statement.

"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."

The agreement also included Authentic buying an undisclosed amount of equity in Minute Media.

Asaf Peled, the CEO and founder of Minute Media, called Sports Illustrated the "gold standard for sports journalism and has been for nearly 70 years."

"The weight and power of that distinction cannot be understated," Peled added. "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."