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Sports,Digital Reinvention,Magazines

Time Inc Reinvention Enters Asia

Time Inc International president Steve Marcopoto unveiled his first big deal barely six weeks into the job: a TV network covering 29 million homes across 12 markets in Asia for Sports Illustrated, one of the publisher’s signature titles.

Two Sports Illustrated channels should go on air sometime in Q2, perhaps as early as April, following a content and licensing deal with regional sports broadcaster ASN announced last week.

The programming will also change, retaining the live coverage ASN is known for but adding a broader mix of shows to deepen ties with sports fans across the region.

ASN, which first launched eight years ago, specializes in North American sports, with exclusive rights for properties such as the Super Bowl for American football, the Stanley Cup finals for ice hockey, and March Madness for basketball.

Time Inc may complement those with additional rights acquisitions over time, although that's not part of the initial plan.

Nonetheless, Marcopoto sees plenty of openings for Sports Illustrated in digital as well as linear TV, especially as US leagues dial up their Asian marketing efforts following the lead of early entrant, the NBA.

“There will be a push into all platforms across the region,” Marcopoto tells Media Business Asia. “That’s the way the industry is evolving and growing. We very much see ourselves as a content company now.”

It’s a linchpin deal for Time Inc, which has been busy bulking up its digital and multimedia capabilities to offset declining print revenue after being spun off from former parent, Time Warner, just under two years ago.

Video is a particular focus, with the company targeting 16 hours of daily output across its stable of brands by the end of the year. A bespoke production facility takes up one floor of the company’s new headquarters in lower Manhattan, which opened for business in November.

Video monetization is a major priority, especially as digital revenue from other areas such as display advertising and online subscriptions have fallen short of earlier expectations, for the industry as a whole as well as for Time Inc.

digital and events

Sports Illustrated is at the forefront of Time Inc's re-engineering, benefiting with a series of acquisitions of sports-related digital and events companies last year.

It also boasts its own long-form production unit, Sports Illustrated Films, launched last September to supplement existing short-from output, in addition to a branded content studio, Sports Illustrated Overtime.

Sports Illustrated shows and talent will feature on the rebranded channels in Asia. Over time, that will include original content produced by Sports Illustrated as well as co-productions with ASN.

The Sports Illustrated brand carries some clout, although marketing will be key to familiarize Asian audiences with what it stands for.

The magazine publishes local editions in China and India, both outside ASN’s footprint. Nonetheless, Marcopoto feels it has some resonance elsewhere in Asia.

“It’s a matter of getting exposed, getting the right content running through it, and of course marketing and promoting it,” he says.

As international president, Marcopoto has been charged with exploiting the potential of Time Inc IP overseas, exporting US initiatives abroad while moving on local and regional opportunities around the world.

He had been working in a consultancy role before his formal appointment, but is now assembling a team and formalizing processes to start raising the profile of Time Inc titles worldwide.

A changing distribution landscape is opening up new possibilities to extend reach, in TV as well as online.

“As a company with great brands and content, and now a kind of broadcast production output, we have endless opportunities to go out and participate in this area,” Marcopoto says.

“In its initial stages, it’s only limited by our own capacity to get around it and do the deals with interested parties,” he adds. “They will run the gamut.”

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