Fox Sports and Sports Illustrated partner to challenge ESPN's dominance

Fox Sports

Fox Sports has formed an advertising and editorial agreement with Sports Illustrated in an attempt to challenge ESPN’s dominance.

The new partnership will see Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports share significant content such as news stories and video highlights as well as collaborating together on various editorial projects.

Under the agreement the ad sales units of each company will also begin selling advertising across both entities, with the revenue being split between them.

The relationship between Sports Illustrated, which is owned by Time Inc., and Fox Sports, owned by 21st Century Fox, comes in response to ESPN’s supremacy in sports media. Figures from digital measurement specialist comScore, revealed that combined properties operated by Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports brought in about 68 million unique visitors in July, while ESPN generated 79 million visitors.

According to the WSJ, going forward the two companies will remain separate entities but will will combine their comScore web traffic under a yet-to-be-named brand, which will be considered a part of Time Inc.’s overall traffic.

“Scale really matters in this business,” said Rich Battista, president of Time Inc. Brands.

Sports illustrated content will help Fox Sports bolster its sports news coverage on fox Sports 1 which has been under prioritised following its decision to revamp its programming to focus on more personality and argument driven sports shows.

“As we’ve scaled back because we don’t believe in highlights and news as TV programming, that’s also created a little bit of a hole on the digital side,” said Pete Vlastelica, executive vice president of digital for Fox Sports.

Vlastelica maintained that the addition of Sports illustrated articles written by “journalists with a capital J” would help fill that gap. “Fox Sports’ digital editorial strategy has been driven by shareable social news and short-form social video. We’re not newsbreakers necessarily.”

The deal and subsequent greater scale of the combined entities could result in a price drop for video advertising on Fox Sports and Sports illustrated, which currently have less inventory to sell than rival ESPN.

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