Time Inc., in another big bet on pivoting its business toward video, is launching Sports Illustrated TV, its first over-the-top subscription-video service.
SI TV, priced at $4.99 per month, will be available starting Nov. 16 on Amazon Channels. The service has a lineup of 130 hours comprising licensed movies and documentary films — including the first five “Rocky” pics, 1975’s “The Bad News Bears” and 1979’s “North Dallas Forty” — along with a few original docu-series and talk shows.
Time Inc. also has cut deals with with sports filmmakers Mike Tollin, co-chair of Mandalay Sports Media, and Jonathan Hock (ESPN’s “30 for 30”) for two different sports documentary projects slated to debut in the first and second halves of 2018, respectively.
SI TV is decidedly different from traditional cable sports channels like those from ESPN and Fox Sports: It won’t broadcast live games, the staple of other sports networks, nor will it have a highlights/recap show a la “SportsCenter.”Instead, the focus for SI TV will be on storytelling, with the tagline “Because you love sports.” Time Inc. CEO Rich Battista positioned the SVOD channel’s focus on programming about the culture of sports as differentiating it in the field. “Sports Illustrated TV is a new home for sports lovers who want to go beyond sports highlights and heated debates with distinctive, immersive and entertaining original programming curated through the trusted Sports Illustrated lens,” he said.
There’s obviously the looming question about whether sports fans will find enough stuff that’s compelling on SI TV to pay five bucks each month. SVOD has proven to be a tough business to crack: This week, Fullscreen pulled the plug on its subscription VOD service after less than two years, after it failed to get enough subscribers to support continued investment.
For Time Inc., SI TV is the company’s second OTT network, joining the ad-supported entertainment and lifestyle channel PeopleTV, originally launched as People/Entertainment Weekly Network in September 2016.
SI TV’s original content will include interviews with Julio Jones, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Conor McGregor, Ricky Williams and other sports stars. In addition, the channel includes exclusive new SI Swimsuit content with a series on the first-ever open casting call model search for the 2018 SI Swimsuit issue in February, as well as a library of SI Swimsuit shows dating back to 1994.
SI TV also plans to include a two-week episode archive of “SI Now,” the live daily sport interview and analysis show that runs on SI.com.
The five initial original shows slated for SI TV are:
- “The Vault”: Series revisits some of the biggest stories that have appeared in Sports Illustrated in its 63-year history with new on-camera interviews.
- “SI: Under the Cover”: Profiles of subjects from current issues of the mag, such as an interview with NFL star Julio Jones.
- “The Crossover”: A basketball lifestyle talk show about the players, games, culture, fashion and memes, hosted by SI.com writers Matt Dollinger and Rohan Nadkarni.
- “Planet Futbol”: Hosted by the soccer writer Grant Wahl, the series delves into the sport around the globe with guests from Europe and the Americas.
- “The Line” (working title): Show about sports betting and daily fantasy sports.
SI TV will include 21 licensed movies at launch: the first five films in Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” franchise; the five “Kickboxer” films; “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”; “Teen Wolf”; “Pride” (2007): “Ladybugs”; “The Bad News Bears” (1975); “The Cutting Edge”; “Diggstown”; “Drift”; “Eight Men Out”; “Rollerball” (1975); and “North Dallas Forty.”
Documentaries on the SVOD channel include “Michael Jordan: Come Fly With Me,” “Racing Dreams,” “America’s Parking Lot,” “In Football We Trust,” “2016 NBA Champions: Cleveland Cavaliers,” “2015 NBA Champions: Golden State Warriors” and “The Great Chicken Wing Hunt.”
Amazon Prime members in the U.S. can subscribe to Sports Illustrated TV for $4.99 per month after a seven-day free trial. The service is accessible through the Prime Video app on connected TVs, streaming-media players (including Amazon Fire TV), mobile devices, and on the web at amazon.com/amazonchannels.