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Exclusive: Sports Illustrated will reduce print output to monthly

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Sports Illustrated was a weekly publication as recently as 2015. In 2020 it will become a monthly, Yahoo Finance has learned.

The magazine reduced to twice per month in January 2018. Now, just two years later, it will cut again to one issue per month in 2020—plus four special issues and the Swimsuit Issue, for a total of 17 issues in the calendar year.

Sports Illustrated staffers learned of the coming change at an all-hands meeting in October. Sports Illustrated management has also notified its printer of the plan to go monthly.

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13:  Issues of Sports Illustrated are for sale at a newsstand in Manhattan on February 13, 2013 in New York City. Time Warner Inc. is reportedly in talks to sell most of its magazine group, including People, InStyle and Entertainment Weekly, to the Meredith Corporation. Time Warner would reportedly retain control of flagship titles Time, Sports Illustrated and Fortune.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Issues of Sports Illustrated on sale at a newsstand in Manhattan on Feb. 13, 2013 in New York City. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Most notably, sources close to the magazine say the “close time” for each issue will be 3-4 weeks, meaning that everything in every issue must be “closed” (all text and photos edited, complete, sent to the printer) more than three weeks before the magazine comes out.

That will meaningfully change the look and content of each issue, since stories will have to be evergreen enough to have a longer shelf life on newsstands. In addition, the iconic covers Sports Illustrated is so known for, which often show newsy photographs of a championship game or notable moment that just happened in the past week, likely won’t be possible.

Although the magazine will publish less frequently, the issues will be printed on heavier paper stock and priced higher on newsstands. And some current staffers are pleased with the new plan. “I actually like the idea, it doesn’t make sense as a weekly anymore,” says one writer at the magazine, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I think the issues will look more like Vanity Fair or Vogue.”

The growing pains at Sports Illustrated are echoed at the other magazines sold off or shuttered in the last year by Meredith, which bought them from Time Inc., where they comprised that company’s “news group”: Sports Illustrated, Fortune, Time, and Money. Sports Illustrated has 2.75 million subscribers.

Meredith sold Time in September 2018 to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff for $190 million; it sold Fortune in November 2018 for $150 million to Thai businessman Chatchaval Jiaravanon; it ended the sale process for Money in April of this year and said it will shut down the print magazine; and it sold Sports Illustrated in May to Authentic Brands Group for $110 million.

Less than one month later, Authentic Brands Group in turn sold the media operations of Sports Illustrated to a Seattle-based digital media firm called Maven, which promptly laid off one third of the staff. Maven paid ABG $45 million against future royalties, according to an SEC filing. Maven also acquired business site The Street this summer.

Maven’s CEO is James Heckman, a former Yahoo and Rivals.com exec, and Maven boardmember Ross Levinsohn, the former interim CEO of Yahoo, is overseeing Sports Illustrated.

Maven did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication.

UPDATE, Nov. 14, 2019: After publication of this story, a Maven spokesperson reached out to Yahoo Finance to say that the Sports Illustrated umbrella will publish more than 17 issues in 2020 when you add in S.I. Kids and “celebratory issues.” Meanwhile, in a comment to the New York Post, Sports Illustrated editor Stephen Cannella confirmed that Sports Illustrated will publish 17 issues.

Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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