Want a snippet of what the 2014 sports media experience is like? Before you dive into this paragraph, a couple things to keep in mind:
1) One of the easiest ways for struggling media companies to increase revenue/traffic is to partner with someone
2) Often, that partner is a professional sport/league, which will funnel you (big) advertising dollars
Naturally, 1 & 2 above will come with some strings attached, which potentially leads to this, a passage that was was buried in a lengthy New York Magazine article about struggling Time Warner, which owned Sports Illustrated a couple years ago:
One acute source of frustration was a failing online partnership between Sports Illustrated and Turner Sports, a shotgun attempt to challenge ESPN*. Turner executives wanted to promote leagues whose broadcast rights they owned, which angered S.I. editors. At one point, a Turner executive told S.I. not to publish photographs on the site of NBA players wearing jewelry because the league did not like it. “You’re done, we’re going to take you over,” a Turner executive told S.I. editors in one meeting. In 2012, Bewkes dispatched his communications chief, Gary Ginsberg, to mediate. But the relationship had become too toxic to salvage, and Bewkes had by this time already settled on spinning off Time Inc.
As you can see, partnering leads to slippery slopes that can take you places you do not want to go. If Turner’s request (which came from the NBA?) was accepted, what’s the next step? Is there another request six months later that advances the agenda?
So SI has to fight the good fight, and risk losing a partner and traffic and advertising money.
You know this story ended: Turner dumped SI for the new girl, Bleacher Report. Bleacher Report now heavily covers the NBA, perhaps more than any other sport.
Sports Illustrated is currently single, but more than ready to mingle. Maybe some billionaire swoops in and saves the day, like Jeff Bezos (Washington Post) or Warren Buffett (other newspapers).
Related: Low Ratings, Internal Squabbles & a Run at Time Warner: Fox Sports 1’s First Year
Related: Thayer Evans Has Not Been Fired by Sports Illustrated, But This Has Been a Very Bad Week for the Magazine
* My star. Come on, nobody really believes it was a “shotgun attempt” to challenge ESPN. Wonder if that’s how Turner/SI cooked up the idea. That’s like a dozen guys trying to take the White House with sling shots and swiss army knives.