The recent rounds of layoffs and cutbacks across many businesses have impacted the sports media scene as well, and the latest company to conduct major layoffs is Sports Illustrated. Several prominent SI writers and editors announced on Twitter Wednesday that they had been laid off:
After seven and a half years of writing about the NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB, LPGA, World Cup, Olympics and more, I, too, have been laid off by Sports Illustrated this morning.
— Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) February 15, 2023
Hello! I've been laid off from @SInow. Not great! If you, for some godforsaken reason, are looking for a features editor or somebody to write about tennis or golf, shoot me a line at email@example.com
— Chris Almeida (@chrisjalmeida) February 15, 2023
Hey Sports Illustrated just laid me off so I guess if anyone’s looking for an editor I’m newly available.
— sarah kelly (@thesarahkelly) February 15, 2023
I was laid off today by Sports Illustrated. Truly my dream job. What a run! Would have made 8 years in two weeks.
Extremely sad but excited to see what’s next.
If you know of any opportunities – email me: Jarrelharris@gmail.com
— Jarrel (@_JarrelHarris) February 15, 2023
I was laid off by Sports Illustrated today. I came here as a nervous and awed 22-year-old fresh out of college and leave nearly 9 years later having grown immensely. I’ve worked with so many tremendous people and I’m really proud of everything we accomplished.
— Molly Geary (@mollyjgeary) February 15, 2023
Well, I’ve been laid off by Sports Illustrated. It’s been an absolute dream to cover baseball at SI these last 4 years.
If you’re looking for a writer, a reporter, an editor or all of the above, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— ByMattMartell (@ByMattMartell) February 15, 2023
I’m tremendously proud of all we did. The @SInow Daily Cover was my baby: https://t.co/zhtAsoyEm1. If you’re looking to employ someone like me—in sports or not, longform or short, on planet earth or elsewhere—pls reach out. @email@example.com
— Adam Duerson (@adamduerson) February 15, 2023
There were 16 other OUTSTANDING HUMAN BEINGS laid off w/ me today. My heart breaks for each of them, but I’m excited for their new opportunities. Change can be good, but first, often, something radical has to happen. Pls pls pls call me about them. ✌? pic.twitter.com/HNOAzIF7vT
— Adam Duerson (@adamduerson) February 15, 2023
After roughly a decade at Sports Illustrated, it’s over. Would’ve preferred to leave on my own terms and not be red carded in the middle of paternity leave, but here we are. Proud of what our ⚽ team achieved, incredibly fortunate to have worked with the very best in the business
— Avi Creditor (@AviCreditor) February 15, 2023
After nearly nine years at Sports Illustrated, I was among those laid off today. It’s the only real job I’ve had, and despite the general descent into chaos you’re witnessing, I’m grateful that most of the time, going to sit and watch basketball never felt like a real job.
— Jeremy Woo (@JeremyWoo) February 15, 2023
?So, I was among the casualties today at Sports Illustrated (tho working thru Feb. 28). I’m grateful for the 2+ years I had at SI, a magazine I'd revered since childhood, a place I'd aspired to work since the moment I chose to become a journalist. It's truly been an honor.
— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) February 16, 2023
Those are the layoffs we’ve seen so far. We’ll add more as we see them.
Update: Awful Announcing has obtained the memo to staff from SI publisher The Arena Group announcing these changes as part of a “restructuring.” That includes 17 people leaving today, plans to hire 12 new people, the retirement of co-editor in chief Ryan Hunt in March, and the split of editorial oversight into three groups. Here are some key parts of that:
Today is a day of change in our Sports business. We are restructuring our Sports Illustrated group to reflect how consumers engage with us, and how we address the needs of our partners and audience.
We are saying goodbye to 17 colleagues and have created 12 new openings to reflect the new needs of the SI business. Since October of 2019, when we partnered with Authentic Brands Group to take over operations of the print and digital web and mobile businesses, we have evolved SI by repositioning the print business as a monthly publication, with premium journalism and excellent storytelling, while also developing a robust digital presence across many platforms. The strategy has helped propel our sports vertical to rapid growth, adding more than 30 million users to our sports vertical since inception.
…The changes announced here will allow us to continue to respond and address those evolving audience needs. It is critical that we invest in the growth areas of our brands, while maintaining the expectations of our existing and long-time consumers.Going forward, we will have three distinct editorial units focusing on serving different parts of our audience. The magazine and long form editorial group will continue to be led by our Editor-in-Chief, Steve Cannella. Our digital coverage from SI, with a renewed focus on key sports verticals, will be led by Joy Russo, and our breaking and trending team will be led by Neal Coolong. All three will report to me going forward. We are looking to make key hires to support our editorial plans, including 9 new journalists and 3 new editorial managers.
… In addition, after 25 years of service to the Sports Illustrated brand, our co-Editor-in-Chief Ryan Hunt will be retiring from the company this March. Ryan will be working on several strategic projects and other elements of the transition through then. Ryan’s passion and contributions to making SI what it is today cannot be overstated.
That memo is notable for spelling out the numbers of layoffs and the editorial shift splits. The plans to hire new people are interesting as well, and they mean that this isn’t as large of a headcount drop as many strict layoffs are. However, we’ve seen in the past elsewhere that “restructurings” with hires amidst layoffs can still be at least partly about cost savings, especially when many of those let go are long-tenured. It will be interesting to see who the new hires wind up being.
Our original post continues below:
This is one of many rounds of layoffs and cutbacks at Sports Illustrated (and its associated team channels, now called FanNation) over the past few years, which have led to major changes in the publication’s operations. Of course, they’re far from the only sports media company that’s conducted major layoffs, especially around the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is some notable additional ownership context with SI.
As repeatedly predicted in 2017, Meredith’s purchase of then-SI parent Time Inc. led to a sale process for SI in 2018, which concluded with a 2019 sale to Authentic Brands Group. ABG then struck a deal with the company then called TheMaven, which is now The Arena Group, under which that company runs SI’s print and digital media operations (the various SI-brand licensing deals remain under ABG).
Arena (which also owns plenty of other media properties, including The Street and The Spun) has come under fire for debt and for missed payments at times. And it’s had its own internal restructurings. As per an inventor presentation last December, Arena had almost $92 million in total debt at the end of last November (and an enterprise value of $383 million):
And debt can certainly be a problem for media companies, as we’re currently seeing with Diamond Sports Group‘s Bally Sports RSNs. Of course, those RSNs look to be headed for a bankruptcy restructuring, and there’s no reporting on anything that drastic happening with Arena yet. But it’s certainly worth looking at Arena’s overall financials around anything happening with SI, and at the market’s confidence in them. Their stock is currently trading at $8.83 per share, well below that $13.72 from last November and about half of their 52-week high of $16.50. We’ll see where they, and SI, go from here.
[SI Media Group image from The Arena Group]