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Sports Illustrated to avert shutdown as it gets a fresh start under new publisher

<i>Lexie Moreland/WWD/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br />The venerable sports publication just got a reprieve from cancellation.
Lexie Moreland/WWD/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
The venerable sports publication just got a reprieve from cancellation.

By Oliver Darcy, CNN

New York (CNN) — Sports Illustrated isn’t shutting down, after all.

The iconic sports magazine is set to get new life under a publishing deal announced Monday by Authentic Brands Group, which owns the magazine’s intellectual property rights.

The news, first reported by The New York Times, caps a tumultuous several months for Sports Illustrated that resulted in widespread layoffs, an artificial intelligence scandal and the departure of senior executives.

In January, The Arena Group, which had published Sports Illustrated since 2019, stopped paying Authentic its licensing fee for publishing rights. In return, Authentic pulled Arena’s license to publish the magazine, prompting turmoil at the outlet. At the time, Arena informed staffers that it would lay off most of its employees, throwing the future of Sports Illustrated into jeopardy.

But after searching for a new publisher, Authentic has found one in Minute Media, a sports-focused content company that is home to several other notable brands, such as The Players’ Tribune and FanSided.

Minute Media said that while it will continue the print edition of the magazine, it hopes to also usher Sports Illustrated into a lucrative digital future. Asaf Peled, founder and chief executive of Minute Media, said in a statement the focus will be taking its 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.”

“Sports Illustrated is the gold standard for sports journalism and has been for nearly 70 years across both print and digital media,” Peled said. “The weight and power of that distinction cannot be understated.”

Minute Media will work to retain most of the Sports Illustrated staff, a person familiar with the matter said. Peled told the Times it also plans to rehire some of the staffers previously laid off by Arena and expand the magazine’s publishing operations worldwide.

The union representing the publication’s editorial staff welcomed the agreement to resuscitate the outlet.

“We have said from the start that our top priorities are to keep Sports Illustrated alive, uphold the legacy of the institution and protect our union jobs. We look forward to discussing a future with Minute Media that does that,” Emma Baccellieri, staff writer for SI and vice chair for the SI Union, said in a statement.

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