Time Inc. Is Launching The Sports Illustrated Network, Its Second Digital Video Service, This Fall

People/EW Network will expand its live talk show 'People Now'

Trevor Noah was part of Time Inc.'s NewFronts announcement. Getty
Headshot of A.J. Katz

One year after announcing the company’s first digital video network—People/Entertainment Weekly Network, or PEN—Time Inc. was at it again with a second streaming service, The Sports Illustrated Network.

The story told at this year’s NewFronts presentation at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom revolved around video and an especially large slate of original content in various formats. Brad Elders, Time Inc.’s chief revenue officer, kicked off the presentation adorned in a New York Rangers jersey. “We’re going to get real. We represent trusted, premium brands that are authentic. We deliver real results with creative cross-platform solutions that deliver expertise at massive scale,” said Elders.

“Sports Illustrated was the original sports storyteller, and this is the natural evolution of this iconic brand,” said Rich Battista, Time Inc. president and chief executive officer.

New content on the SI Network will include original documentaries and insights from prominent SI reporters who cover a variety of sports. The OTT network, which will launch this fall, will also present live event programming, fantasy sports and swimsuit content.

PEN paved the way for the SI Network after it launched in 2016 and has since garnered millions of downloads, with viewers spending more than 30 minutes per session on the network, according to Battista. “This is great proof that our storytelling and brands are thriving in this long-form format,” he said.

Additionally, PEN will expand its daily talk show, People Now, from its current 30-minute morning format to include a companion daily half-hour afternoon program, starting this fall. Host Jeremy Parsons interviewed Trevor Noah live onstage for People Now, which aired live this morning on the streaming service.

“Sports Illustrated was the original sports storyteller, and this is the natural evolution of this iconic brand."
Rich Battista

The company introduced another new video series for PEN, EW Reunites, which brings together cast members from movies and TV shows, from Do the Right Thing to Friday Night Lights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Back to the Future.

From Time, there’s Firsts, a series of interviews with trailblazing and pioneering women—from athletes to celebrities, executives to government officials and politicians—on how they’ve achieved success and the obstacles they’ve had to overcome over the years.

Essence introduced a number of new unscripted digital video programs, including a new live talk show, Essence Now, which will be the first live show on Twitter targeting black women. There’s also The Boss Lady Project, a new series that pairs young African-American girls with successful women who serve as mentors.

The company unveiled three millennial female-focused social video brands that will launch later this year: The Pretty, ReMade and The Barrel. There’s also a new DIY-focused lifestyle editorial franchise in The Fix.

“With our creative capabilities, data and our scale, we can do things that no other company can do,” said Jen Wong, president of digital and chief operating officer. “We can launch and scale new brands quickly as we saw with the recent launch of Well Done. We can also work with marketers as creative agency of record or as a self-serve programmatic partner. You are going to see more of all of this from Time Inc.”

“From live content to social media brands, from VR to streaming networks, Time Inc. is at the forefront of it all,” proclaimed Battista.

The announcements fueled a more positive, upbeat mood during the publisher’s NewFronts presentation as it continues to make an aggressive digital-first push. Time Inc. has been the subject of headlines, as America’s largest publisher—with brands like Sports Illustrated, People, Entertainment Weekly and of course Time—has been the subject of buyout rumors amid a decline in print media as advertisers shift to digital platforms.

The company spent several months listening to suitors seeking to acquire the media company, the most notable being rival publisher Meredith, before deciding to remain on its own. Time Inc.’s board of directors dropped the plan of selling itself in order to pursue its own strategic plan, which includes revamping its cost structure and focusing on its digital business, the company said last week. The news caused Time Inc.’s stock to plunge 19 percent.

@ajkatztv aj.katz@adweek.com A.J. Katz is the senior editor of Adweek's TVNewser.