Sports Illustrated, Under the Leadership of Ross Levinsohn, Launches Premium Membership

Ross Levinsohn
4 min readFeb 5, 2021

The most trusted name in sports, Sports Illustrated, has launched its new digital premium membership.

Sports Illustrated was acquired by Authentic Brands Group (ABG) back in May 2019. Maven (MVEN) entered an agreement two months later in June 2019 to license and operate Sports Illustrated’s media business from ABG. Maven also owns TheStreet.

Sports Illustrated is one of the most famous magazine brands in the U.S. and was the first magazine to reach 1 million in circulation.

Digital membership will start at $5.99 per month with the first month for $1. SI also will offer a digital + print membership at $69.99 per year.

Paywall content from digital media publishers is becoming a necessary function in an evolving media space. Advertising dollars have dried up and online publishers have been forced to build revenue streams with digital subscription offerings.

Online publishers across the news media sector have added digital subscription offerings to adapt and survive. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Washington Post, Business Insider, The Atlantic, and even TheStreet have invested in building subscription revenue.

Sports Illustrated will enter the digital subscription offering business in sports with a clear rival, The Athletic. SI will lean on its unparalleled storytelling, like the Daily Cover, the SI Vault, and early access to the SI magazine’s feature stories, to set itself apart from its competitors.

The editors of Sports Illustrated explained why they decided to add the paywall in a post on SI earlier this week:

“Because the internet has changed, and savvy media consumers know that quality digital content that’s worth your time is also worth your support. Because a model based solely on advertising exposes our storytelling capabilities to market forces we can’t control. And because we want to build the kind of connection, loyalty and trust with our digital audience we’ve long had with the magazine.”

Consumers have been supporting the top online publishers and over the past year, there has been an increase in subscribers to online publishers.

The New York Times reported more than 6 million digital subscribers and the Washington Post reported over 3 million digital subscribers in November 2020. The Wall Street Journal reported more than 2 million digital subscribers.

Sports Illustrated editors explained what will be included in the premium subscription offering, what will remain free on their site, and how the paywall will work.

“Every visitor to will have an allotment of free articles per month; after that you’ll be asked to subscribe to unlock unlimited access to the Daily Cover and the rest of our premium stories, videos, podcasts and photos. You’ll also have full access to the SI Vault, our magazine archive dating back to that first issue. In addition, subscribers get early access to magazine stories each month, a newsletter with custom features, exclusive content from the best sports journalists in the business and audio versions of select magazine stories. Breaking news posts; content from FanNation, our network of team-specific sites; and SI Swimsuit posts are not metered.”

Sports Illustrated already has begun investing in its premium offering by adding more talent to its award-winning lineup of journalists.

In the past month, SI added Chris Almeida, formerly of the Ringer, Howard Beck, formerly of The New York Times, former ESPN correspondent Kate Fagan, and former FiveThirtyEight contributor Michael Pina.

The SI magazine has featured iconic covers with Mickey Mantle, Michael Jordan, the Dream Team, Hank Aaron, Tiger Woods, Brandi Chastain, Serena Williams, Muhammad Ali, the Miracle on Ice, Allen Iverson, and many more.

Sports Illustrated will now try to recreate the magic it has been publishing and printing since 1954 behind the paywall.

About Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated is an award-winning media enterprise and cultural touchstone that captures moments in sports and turns them into history. Offering the most relevant and innovative content in real-time, SI is the authoritative voice of the sports world and the source that connects audiences to athletes and teams across every touchpoint spanning entertainment, editorial, and digital platforms to live events and brand extensions. The Sports Illustrated network includes the iconic Magazine and SI Kids and marquee franchises Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, Sportsperson of the Year, and Fashionable 50.

Follow Sports Illustrated on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

About Maven

Maven ( is a best-in-class technology platform empowering premium publishers who impact, inform, educate and entertain. Maven operates the media businesses for Sports Illustrated and TheStreet, and powers over 275 online destinations including History, Maxim, Ski Magazine, and Biography. Based in Seattle, Maven is publicly traded under the ticker symbol MVEN) .

Originally published at on February 5, 2021.



Ross Levinsohn

Ross Levinsohn the Sports Illustrated CEO and the CEO of The Arena Group. He has also held C-level positions with Yahoo! and Fox Intera