Sports Illustrated is launching its own studio to develop, produce and distribute sports content based on the magazine’s stories and photography throughout the magazine’s more than 65 years, it was announced Tuesday.
Sports Illustrated Studios will be launched Tuesday as part of a joint venture between 101 Studios and Authentic Brands Group, and the newly formed studio will develop for film, TV and scripted podcasts.
SI isn’t just licensing its content, it will also launch a full blown studio that will be a new leg of David Glasser’s 101 Studios. 101 Studios will be managing and overseeing all production, distribution and marketing for Sports Illustrated Studios in collaboration with ABG. The studio is planning a slate of several TV series and feature films per year.
The studio’s inaugural project though will be “Covers,” a docu-series based on SI’s top cover stories throughout its nearly seven-decade run. Each episode will chronicle a specific sports moment in history and do so through a new lens, as well as give insight into how the iconic magazine cover images were selected and created by the magazine’s current and former staff.
In speaking with TheWrap, Glasser and ABG CEO Jamie Salter said that this initiative had been in the works for some time and well before the reality of the coronavirus had set in. Sports Illustrated publisher TheMaven in particular in late March cut 9% of the SI staff.
“As we’ve seen, the viewership, bringing content to people, especially at home or through their streaming service, offering something additional to watch during a time and during the future when things are being done differently, we’re sort of here,” Glassed told TheWrap. “The timing wasn’t planned, but we’ll be here to provide the content.”
But Salter said that ABG agreed to this joint venture rather than licensing the brand because Glasser explained to him that “you’re going to not like me three years from now” when the films are a massive success and all they would’ve gotten from it is a licensing fee.
In the time it took to hash out the deal, Glasser says that the studio has already been in the works on several series and films that will be unveiled within the next four to six weeks, with at least three scripted series and four features in development. The new studio has even conceived of a sports-themed true crime show and a food show, with the projects drawing from the stories you do know to the smaller stories you don’t. And Salter says that yes, some day there will be content inspired by the popular SI Swimsuit Issue.
“You can do something that’s right on the nose as Tiger Woods to a story that you did not know to a ‘Jerry Maguire’ or a ‘Blind Side’ or a ‘Moneyball.’ That’s the opportunity of what it allows here and makes available to us,” Glasser said. “There’s pages and pages and pages of articles, and some of them are the covers, and some of them are on page 10 of the magazine, and right there is a story you didn’t know about, and its like a little diamond in the rough.”
“Sports Illustrated is far and away the most trusted name in sports. And with Sports Illustrated Studios, we not only have the opportunity to retell the magazine’s legendary and iconic stories to fans and athletes alike, but we also will be introducing new generations to the immersive world of sports as told by Sports Illustrated,” David Hutkin, COO of 101 Studios, said in a statement. “ABG has been a wonderful partner to us and we look forward to releasing content that reminds audiences of the thrill, pain, glory and excitement behind the most famous events in sports history.”
“So much of Sports Illustrated’s legacy has been built on phenomenal reporting and writing,” Ross Levinsohn, CEO of Sports Illustrated Media, said in a statement. “We are thrilled that the in-depth stories that have come to define Sports Illustrated’s unrivaled storytelling will be further enlivened though this new studio. Now is the perfect time to expand SI further into film and television with content that thrills and engages both sports fans and general audiences.”
“The creation of a studio dedicated to developing original programming is a key building block for the future of Sports Illustrated and ABG,” Jamie Salter, founder, chairman and CEO of ABG, owner of Sports Illustrated, said in a statement. “Less than a year after acquiring the brand, we have made great strides in tapping the value of this franchise and expanding its reach across sports, culture and entertainment. This partnership is a testament to the strength of SI and the ingenuity of 101 Studios.”
Michele Newman from 101 Studios and Aerin Snow and Leif Cervantes de Reinstein from Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton handled the deal for 101 Studios. Corey Salter, Marc Rosen and Colin Smeeton represented ABG.