The sports media brand Sports Illustrated has made mass layoffs, licensing disputes, and more. The publisher, The Arena Group, announced on Friday its intention to lay off a large number, possibly all, of the guild-represented workers at Sports Illustrated.
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This comes less than 24 hours after The Arena Group revealed a reduction in its workforce, affecting 100 employees.
The publisher is rooted in financial struggles and licensing issues. According to reports, Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the licensing group that owns the Sports Illustrated brand, decided to revoke The Arena Group’s license to publish SI after the latter missed a payment.
The Sports Illustrated Union and The NewsGuild of New York, representing about 80 editorial workers at the magazine, issued a statement expressing their concern to fighting for the publication.
The union stated, “This is another difficult day in what has been a difficult four years for Sports Illustrated under Arena Group (previously The Maven) stewardship.”
In a filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, ABG notified The Arena Group that it intended to terminate the licensing agreement due to a missed quarterly payment of approximately $3.75 million. The termination triggered a $45 million payment obligation from The Arena Group to ABG.
The licensing, both ABG and The Arena Group have expressed their intentions to continue producing Sports Illustrated.
ABG stated that it is committed to the brand’s continued growth. The Arena Group, in a statement, mentioned ongoing negotiations with ABG and its hope to be the company to take the media forward.
However, they acknowledged that if an agreement is not reached, they are confident that someone else will step in to support the transition the legacy of Sports Illustrated from suffering.
The layoffs and licensing disputes are just the challenges faced by Sports media brand in recent years. The magazine, once a weekly staple for sports fans, has undergone changes since it was sold by Meredith Corporation to ABG in 2019.
The shift from weekly to biweekly publication in 2018 and later to monthly in 2020 made a departure from its traditional format.
The troubles escalated in November when reports surfaced that Sports Illustrated had published articles, photos, and even author names generated by artificial intelligence (AI).
The tech news outlet Futurism reported that AI-generated content had been used, leading to questions about the authenticity of stories and the credibility of the publication.
The Arena Group ousted CEO Ross Levinsohn and appointed Manoj Bhargava as the CEO. However, Bhargava later stepped down in January due to unspecified conflicts of interest. The magazine’s struggles continued with the mass layoffs and the termination of the licensing agreement.
The layoffs at Sports Illustrated with a larger pattern of job cuts in the media sector, as reported by employment firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.
As employees face an uncertain future, social media has been flooded with tributes for what many consider a cornerstone of sports journalism.
The hashtag #SaveSI has gained traction, with former staffers, athletes, and fans expressing their sadness and nostalgia for a publication that has been a cultural touchstone for nearly seven decades.