The seller, Meredith Corp., will continue running the print edition and the website SI.com for at least two years under a licensing deal. Its editor and publisher are staying on, and the magazine will have editorial independence.
It’s not clear what will happen after two years. Meredith spokeswoman Jill Davison said the two companies have “achievable and ambitious goals to meet” during that time frame and will evaluate the partnership from there.
The buyer, Authentic Brands Group, said it sees opportunities to grow Sports Illustrated in digital, TV and social media, making it “a leader in lifestyle and entertainment.”
Authentic will take over marketing and business development and will look for other licensing opportunities in products, original content and live events. The company said it sees opportunity to use the Sports Illustrated brand in growing markets for sports gambling and video game competitions known as esports.
Sports Illustrated, which began publishing in 1954, covers sports and has an annual swimsuit edition.
Meredith and Authentic say Sports Illustrated has an audience of more than 120 million people online and in print. The magazine, however, has struggled as print advertisers flee for the internet and digital sports outlets crop up. ESPN, for example, said in April that it would shut down its print magazine.
Meredith got Sports Illustrated as part of its purchase of the Time Inc. magazine company in January 2018. Meredith, the publisher of lifestyle magazines and sites like Martha Stewart Living and Allrecipes, said shortly after buying Time Inc. that it wanted to sell the publisher’s news and sports magazines while keeping the titles more aligned with its brand like People. It has already offloaded Time magazine and Fortune.