A real institution in danger. According to the American press union, the publisher The Arena Group, which is in the process of restructuring, plans to separate from the majority of the editorial staff of the emblematic Sports Illustrated (SI) magazine.

“Sports Illustrated employees were informed today by The Arena Group that it plans to lay off a significant number, possibly all, of SI’s unionized employees,” the New York branch wrote on Friday, January 19 of the press union, the NewsGuild.

The move follows the revocation of a licensing agreement between Arena Group and Sports Illustrated rights owner Authentic Brands Group (ABG) after the former missed a quarterly payment deadline at the end of December.

Requested by Agence France-Presse (AFP), The Arena Group and Authentic Brands did not respond. A source close to the matter nevertheless said that some of Sports Illustrated’s employees would keep their jobs, without giving further details.

“Significant reduction” in workforce

In a statement, The Arena Group confirmed a “significant reduction” in its workforce, which amounts to just over 100 people, without specifying what Sports Illustrated was responsible for. The company also manages the financial information site TheStreet and Parade, dedicated to entertainment. In a statement sent to AFP, Authentic Brands Group assured that Sports Illustrated would continue its activities. Asked about the method, ABG did not respond.

This is a new stage, perhaps the last, in the descent into hell of Sports Illustrated, which has passed from hand to hand in recent years as its commercial trajectory followed that of the moribund paper press. Sports Illustrated and its parent company, Time Inc, were first spun off from the Time Warner empire in 2014, before being purchased by the Meredith Corporation in 2018. The latter then sold SI to Authentic Brands in 2019 for $110 million (around €100 million).

Launched in 1954, Sports Illustrated was the first American magazine to reach the threshold of one million copies sold per week, a circulation that would rise to around 3.5 million at its peak in the early 1990s. is famous beyond the sports world for its famous annual “Swimsuit Issue”, which features models and professional athletes in swimsuits.

Competed by the emergence of the Internet, in particular from the giant ESPN (television, radio, news site), Sports Illustrated saw its distribution and influence inexorably decrease. Formerly weekly, Sports Illustrated became biweekly in 2018 and monthly in 2020, with several additional special editions.

“We call on ABG to ensure the continued publication of SI and enable it to serve its readership as it has for nearly 70 years,” the union urged.