Sixty-three years after Sports Illustrated first named a Sportsman of Year, the award (now branded Sportsperson of the Year) remains relevant, sparking coverage and debate each winter. Now, the award is getting its own television special.
NBC announced Monday that on December 8, NBCSN will air the Sportsperson of the Year ceremony, which has streamed online in previous years. Via Variety:
“The franchise is one of our crown jewels and it translates easily to television,” said Chris Stone, editorial director of Time Inc.’s Sports Group, which oversees the publication. “One thing that television does better than any other platform is capture emotion, and this is an evening with a lot of emotion.”
Stone said he’s long believed that the show should be broadcast — a feeling that intensified at last year’s awards show when he glanced over to the side of the stage and saw football great Peyton Manning engrossed in a casual conversation with basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“Even if we were tweeting or posting on Instagram, we couldn’t capture the excitement of the night like we can with television,” Stone said.
In addition to the Sportsperson of the Year award, SI will also hand out the Muhammad Ali Legacy award and the hope award, as well as honors for the sports kid of the year, rising star of the year, and performance of the year.
Though no one has said so, it seems Sports Illustrated is building something similar to ESPN’s annual ESPYS ceremony, with tuxedos, star athletes and a menu of honors. SI has the benefit of owning an award with decades of history, one that people actually care about. ESPN, of course, has the advantage of massive brand recognition, some degree of cool factor, and a willingness to lose loads of money on the show every year.
SI’s partnership with NBCSN continues the publication’s apparent shift away from print and toward broadcast (slightly, at least). In the last six weeks, Sports Illustrated has announced a new subscription-based streaming service and a deal with Paramount Network to turn its “True Crime” series into a TV property, while declaring that the magazine will cut back t0 27 issues next year.