Meredith Corporation unloaded Sports Illustrated for a mere $110 million last May.
Marketing and brand development company Authentic Brands Group was the buyer. Authentic Brands, which owns licensing rights to companies like Juicy Couture and celebrities like Muhammad Ali, has zero experience running a media company.
Given their need for help, the new owner of this classic title inked a deal with Maven in Seattle to run the editorial needs of the magazine.
Maven was founded in 2016 by James Heckman, who co-founded Rivals.com, a constellation of college recruiting websites that was acquired by Yahoo.
This morning I received a press release from Maven and SI’s leadership team. Here are a few highlights from the release, which was emailed to SI staffers last night:
Sports Illustrated—on any platform—is not being taken over by or replaced with an army of bloggers and inexperienced local reporters.
Maven will help extend Sports Illustrated’s reach into local journalism by building a coalition of journalists to cover pro teams and major college programs with skill, tenacity and timeliness to match the best beat reporters anywhere in the industry. This is in addition to—not instead of—the journalism SI has always produced from a national perspective. It cannot be said enough: These are professional, credentialed, on-the-ground-journalists, not stay-at-home bloggers.
In other words, digital disruption is real, but legacy media traditions remain. For staff morale reasons, Maven wants to instill a hierarchy where star journalists are the reason to read SI. Management wants the high paid writers to believe this and to some degree they want the audience to also buy-in. However, the new owners and operators also want to make money.
Here’s more from the presser:
Evolution is always difficult, particularly when it alters career arcs and newsroom staffs. But the status quo must change, in media in general and at SI specifically. In the past decade, more than $100 million in costs have been ripped out of the SI business, over 200 staffers were cut, and the company saw significant declines in every major business indicator over the last five years. A focus on quarterly numbers, along with corporate instability, suffocated SI’s ability to grow and invest.
Maven has a strategy to strengthen that bond and extend it to new, different and bigger audiences.
In other words, Maven and Authentic Brands Group are the saviors of the magazine that was once gutted by the big media company that sadly neglected it.
If only things were as simple as they’re portrayed to be in press releases.
The reality is consumers of sports news have more options than ever today, and some of the best options available are offered by startup media companies run by digital natives.