Sports Illustrated Films debuts with premiere of “Brett Favre: Life After the Game”
Time Inc. video deal with Mandalay Sports Media will result in six films being released in 2015 including “The Rise and Fall of the Danbury Trashers,” the story of a minor league hockey team
Time Inc. earlier this week announced that Mike Beck and Ian Orefice had been promoted to Senior Executive Producer for Time Inc. Video. Today the publisher of TIME, PEOPLE and Sports Illustrated said that it would be launching Sports Illustrated Films, an original programming and interactive digital platform.
Of course, this isn’t really a launch so much as a debut as SI.com/films already has content up online – and more importantly, some paid advertising to use as a pre-roll. The first film available is Brett Favre: Life After the Game.
This kind of content will attract video advertising, but the next question many will have is whether it will also lead to Time Inc. investing in TV apps – those channels that will soon be popping up on the Apple TV later this fall. TIME magazine already has a channel of sorts inside the Roku app store, but it was a modest effort with only a limited number of short videos available, not the sort of ambitious film work we see here with SI Films.
(It is probably already too late to also mention that this is the kind of content that really would have made subscribing to a digital edition worthwhile. Red Bulletin has one early digital magazine that really invested heavily in video. But the effort doesn’t make sense if it only appears in a digital magazine as the economics will not work, the video has to be able to be used throughout the brand’s digital publishing efforts. It that includes digital magazines, the web, mobile, and a new Apple TV channel, then maybe it can be supported through the advertising it attracts.)
Here is Time Inc.’s announcement:
NEW YORK, NY – September 25, 2015 — Today, Time Inc.’s Video Division is introducing a series of sports video programming and development initiatives that will deepen and diversify the company’s robust video programming slate. Launching today is “Sports Illustrated Films,” an original programming enterprise and interactive digital platform that will draw on a network of filmmakers, producers and journalists, both within Time Inc. and beyond, to create SI-branded video programming for digital, TV and OTT distribution. A pair of “Sports Illustrated Films” debut today on a new digital channel – SI.com/films – created for this effort. The company also announced that it has reached production agreements with Mandalay Sports Media and Velocity to produce a variety of programming under the “Sports Illustrated Films” banner. All of this is part of Time Inc.’s broader plan to leverage its award-winning storytelling through video programming for all distribution channels.
“We see amazing potential for Sports Illustrated-branded programming both domestically and internationally, and we are going to pursue those opportunities very aggressively,” said J.R. McCabe, SVP, Time Inc. Video. “Today’s announcements reflect the vision we have for many of our brands.”
Six “Sports Illustrated Films” will be released in 2015. Premiering today are “Brett Favre: Life After the Game,” which profiles NFL Legend Brett Favre, who sat down on his Mississippi farm with SI Senior Writer Greg Bishop to reflect on his playing days, retirement and evolving relationship with his beloved Green Bay fans. Also out today is “The Rise and Fall of the Danbury Trashers,” the story of a minor league hockey team owned by Connecticut Waste Management king Jimmy Galante, which was adapted from Jon Wertheim’s January 20, 2014, story in Sports Illustrated. Both can be seen on SI’s new video channel, SI.com/films, which will house live and original productions, along with an archive of more than 40 SI productions, including all three seasons of the critically acclaimed series Underdogs, as well as individual feature stories from the vault. Wertheim, Ian Orefice and Collin Orcutt are the executive producers of SI Films.
“With changing consumption habits, especially among millennials, and the plethora of popular distribution outlets at hand, there are limitless opportunities to offer an independent voice and quality video programming. ‘Sports Illustrated Films’ aims to capitalize on all of that,” said Sports Illustrated Group Editor Paul Fichtenbaum. “Today’s premieres reflect that potential. We had special access to one of the greatest to ever play football, and the Danbury Trashers story comes straight from the SI pages from one of our finest writers.”
The new deal with Mandalay Sports Media will see Mike Tollin and Jon Weinbach produce “Patrick and ‘Zo,’” an intimate portrait of the unique kinship and rivalry between Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning, two icons of modern basketball. Both players starred at Georgetown University and then squared off against each other as stars in the National Basketball Association. The deal with Velocity entails the creation of a new video franchise devoted to the greatest moments in sports. Both “Patrick and ‘Zo” and the “100 Greatest Moments in Sports” are set to premiere later this year.
“It’s an incredible privilege to partner with Sports Illustrated on this fantastic initiative,” said Jon Weinbach, Mandalay Sports Media’s executive producer and executive vice-president. “We’re very excited to spotlight Alonzo and Patrick, two real giants of basketball, who’ve shared intense rivalries and authentic friendship for more than 20 years.”
“Collaborating with the iconic Sports Illustrated brand to not only contextualize but bring to life the greatest moments in sports history is a very special project,” said Josh Pollack, Velocity Founder and CEO. “The Time Inc. team has incredible vision, flexibility, reach and influence, and our partnership – led by digital video – will also exploit print, live events and television, which will provide audiences and sponsors a true 360-degree experience.”
The SI Films launch represents the latest from the Sports Illustrated Group – which earlier this year purchased the FanSided blog network of 300 sites and launched Campus Rush, devoted to college football culture – and comes on the heels of Time Inc.’s three acquisitions that form the nucleus of SI Play, a new division devoted to youth sports. “We feel very good about the pace of SI’s business expansion and are excited about the potential for Sports Illustrated Films. It is an essential part of our broader plan to diversify the SI portfolio of branded products and services,” said Brendan Ripp, Sports Illustrated Group Publisher.
Today’s announcements build on both the company’s and SI’s momentum in video. SI was one of the media industry’s first to embrace digital video with efforts that included a new daily live talk show (SI Now Powered by Ford), as well as hundreds of live and on-demand original, award-winning productions. The efforts are expanding the brand’s reach among video consumers as more than 20% of the SI.com audience is now engaging in video on the site daily. This programming has also earned industry accolades, including the company’s first Sports Emmy for “A Boy Helps a Town Heal,” the story of Jack Wellman, of Newtown, Connecticut, and a Webby Award for “Young, Gifted and Homeless,” an investigation of the growing crisis of homeless high school athletes. The company is also a founding partner of 120 Sports, the groundbreaking OTT sports network.
Time Inc. Video is achieving across-the-board growth in programming and viewership. According to the August 2015 comScore data, the company’s video UVs are up 157% year over year and total videos started are up 399% year over year. “Sports Illustrated Films” is one of several Time Inc. premieres set for the fall. Last month, Time Inc. also debuted “New Orleans Here & Now,” its first premium video content produced and distributed by Time Inc. in partnership with Rampante. Later this year, Time Inc. will cut the ribbon on new studios in the company’s new Manhattan headquarters.