Film

Sports Illustrated Films goes after ESPN as company expands video programming slate

Time Inc.’s Video Division will introduce a new series of sports video programming and development initiatives set to, “deepen and diversify the company’s robust video programming slate.” This according to the company’s announcement this morning that detailed the launch of “Sports Illustrated Films,” an original programming enterprise and interactive digital platform that will draw on a network of filmmakers, producers and journalists within Time Inc. and beyond.

The goal behind the collaboration is, to create SI-branded video programming for digital, TV and OTT distribution. A pair of “Sports Illustrated Films” debut today on a new digital channel – SI.com/films – created for this effort.

The company also announced that it has reached production agreements with Mandalay Sports Media and Velocity to produce a variety of programming under the “Sports Illustrated Films” banner. All of this is part of Time Inc.’s broader plan to leverage its award-winning storytelling through video programming for all distribution channels.

“We see amazing potential for Sports Illustrated-branded programming both domestically and internationally, and we are going to pursue those opportunities very aggressively,” said J.R. McCabe, SVP, Time Inc. Video. “Today’s announcements reflect the vision we have for many of our brands.”

Six “Sports Illustrated Films” will be released in 2015. Premiering today are “Brett Favre: Life After the Game,” which profiles NFL Legend Brett Favre, who sat down on his Mississippi farm with SI Senior Writer Greg Bishop to reflect on his playing days, retirement and evolving relationship with his beloved Green Bay fans. Also out today is “The Rise and Fall of the Danbury Trashers,” the story of a minor league hockey team owned by Connecticut Waste Management king Jimmy Galante, which was adapted from Jon Wertheim’s January 20, 2014, story in Sports Illustrated. Both can be seen on SI’s new video channel, SI.com/films, which will house live and original productions, along with an archive of more than 40 SI productions, including all three seasons of the critically acclaimed series Underdogs, as well as individual feature stories from the vault. Wertheim, Ian Orefice and Collin Orcutt are the executive producers of SI Films.

“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. ‘Sports Illustrated Films’ aims to capitalize on all of that,” said Sports Illustrated Group Editor Paul Fichtenbaum. “Today’s premieres reflect that potential. We had special access to one of the greatest to ever play football, and the Danbury Trashers story comes straight from the SI pages from one of our finest writers.”

The new deal with Mandalay Sports Media will see Mike Tollin and Jon Weinbach produce “Patrick and ‘Zo,’” an intimate portrait of the unique kinship and rivalry between Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning, two icons of modern basketball. Both players starred at Georgetown University and then squared off against each other as stars in the National Basketball Association. The deal with Velocity entails the creation of a new video franchise devoted to the greatest moments in sports. Both “Patrick and ‘Zo” and the “100 Greatest Moments in Sports” are set to premiere later this year.

“It’s an incredible privilege to partner with Sports Illustrated on this fantastic initiative,” said Jon Weinbach, Mandalay Sports Media’s executive producer and executive vice-president. “We’re very excited to spotlight Alonzo and Patrick, two real giants of basketball, who’ve shared intense rivalries and authentic friendship for more than 20 years.”

“Collaborating with the iconic Sports Illustrated brand to not only contextualize but bring to life the greatest moments in sports history is a very special project,” said Josh Pollack, Velocity Founder and CEO. “The Time Inc. team has incredible vision, flexibility, reach and influence, and our partnership – led by digital video – will also exploit print, live events and television, which will provide audiences and sponsors a true 360-degree experience.”

The SI Films launch represents the latest from the Sports Illustrated Group – which earlier this year purchased the FanSided blog network of 300 sites and launched Campus Rush, devoted to college football culture – and comes on the heels of Time Inc.’s three acquisitions that form the nucleus of SI Play, a new division devoted to youth sports. “We feel very good about the pace of SI’s business expansion and are excited about the potential for Sports Illustrated Films. It is an essential part of our broader plan to diversify the SI portfolio of branded products and services,” said Brendan Ripp, Sports Illustrated Group Publisher.