Sports Illustrated Expands Into Long-Form Video Content

Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated is expanding into long-form video content with SI Films, with six feature videos to debut online.

“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,” said Sports Illustrated group editor Paul Fichtenbaum. “Sports Illustrated Films aims to capitalize on all of that.”

In addition to features produced in-house and external production houses, SI Films announced production deals with Mandalay Sports Media and Velocity to produce programming under the SI Films banner.

Two of the first films include:

“Brett Favre: Life After the Game” a profile one the NFL Quarterback who led the Green Bay Packers for several years.

“The Rise and Fall of the Danbury Trashers” a story of a minor league hockey team.

In addition, 40 others long-form videos are being added from content previously created, including three seasons of the “Underdogs” profile of high school football teams.

According to Variety:

“With this specific launch, we’re investing in programming we know consumers are going to watch,” Time Inc. senior VP of video J.R. McCabe said. The goal is “to create habitual viewing on the part of our audience.”

Under SI’s deal with Mandalay Sports Media, Mike Tollin and Jon Weinbach are producing “Patrick and ‘Zo,” about the unique kinship and rivalry between Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning, two pro basketball stars who both hail from Georgetown U. and squared off in the NBA. The deal with Velocity entails the creation of a video franchise, “100 Greatest Moments in Sports,” set to premiere later this year.

Mike Tollin, co-chairman of Mandalay Sports Media, said the company has boosted the number of its digital productions in recent years. Besides the SI Films project, MSM inked a deal to produce nearly 50 short films for Vice Sports and earlier this year launched scripted series “Sin City Saints” on Yahoo.

“I always evaluate a story and what shape and size it ought to take — is this a feature film, scripted series, unscripted series? Or is it a short-form digital piece?” he said. “Increasingly we’ve been leaning toward the latter because there’s an instant gratification, and an appetite that’s ravenous for content that can be consumed on small screens.”

The launch of SI Films comes after Sports Illustrated Group’s acquisition earlier this year of FanSided, a blog network of 300 sites, as well as its launch of Campus Rush, devoted to college football culture. In addition, Time Inc. has formed SI Play, a new division devoted to youth sports.

Overall, Time Inc. — like other historically print-oriented media companies — has been ramping up video production across all its properties. It’s set to open a 3,000-square-foot studio space in its new headquarters in lower Manhattan later this year.

The company’s video initiatives include Sports Illustrated’s live daily live talk show, “SI Now powered by Ford,” and Time Inc. is also a founding partner of 120 Sports, an over-the-top sports network.

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