Sports Illustrated Starts Live, Daily Half-Hour Video Show

'SI Now Powered by Ford' to Run at 1 P.M. Weekdays -- Prime-Time for the Site

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Sports Illustrated is adding to its roster of original video with a 30-minute live-streaming talk show every weekday starting Monday, the magazine and the show's sponsor, Ford Motor Company, said today.

"SI Now Powered by Ford" will be hosted by Maggie Gray, the lead anchor for Sports Illustrated video content, and include a rotating cast of the magazine's writers and newsmakers.

Sports Illustrated, part of Time Inc., created a video unit in 2010 and produces about 50 original videos each week, according to executives. It has streamed live events such as "SI Swimsuit Live 2013," a one-hour red carpet special that was simulcast across several partner sites, but "SI Now" is the first regular, live video series from any Time Inc. brand, they said.

"Three years ago the mandate was to simply bring Sports Illustrated to life in video form," said Ian Orefice, executive producer for news and sports at the Time Inc. "The reason for 'SI Now' is that we weren't doing enough for the immediate viewer. We didn't have that deeper connection."

The show will stream live at 1 p.m. ET, a peak traffic time for SI.com. "One of the reasons for the show is to take our primetime moment of the day and use it to grow an audience for live programming," said Matt Bean, managing editor of SI.com. An archive of the episodes will reside on the site, and certain segments will be spliced into separate videos and dropped into related SI.com stories, Mr. Bean said.

Sports Illustrated developed the concept for the show and brought it to Ford, which agreed to a sponsorship deal that will run through October. After that point, both sides will evaluate the program and determine whether to continue and in what form. Whether or not Ford renews its sponsorship, SI said it expects to continue producing a live streaming product.

Time Inc. is building a studio at its headquarters for Sports Illustrated that its sibling brands can use. Sports Illustrated also hired five new staffers to work on the show, though some of them may have additional roles at Time Inc. as the company expands its video production.

As the show's only advertiser, Ford is looking to build brand awareness for the vehicles that most appeal to Sports Illustrated's core audience of 18-to-34-year-old men. "We want viewers of all our digital content to know and think about our brand first when they begin the shopping process," said Erica Bigley, Ford's digital media manager.

Sports Illustrated and Ford both declined to say how the automaker will be presented in the show.

"SI Now" comes as a number of key players in sports media are producing video content to build their online audiences and grab more advertising dollars. A study from GfK Media and Entertainment and the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that 45 million American adults watch videos that are professionally produced for the web at least once a month. That audience skews young and male, the primary audience for sports media.

Ad rates for web video are also far higher than for traditional ad units on the web.

"A lot of these videos might not have huge audiences, but it's an audience that is probably much more interested in the topic area," said David C. Tice, a senior vice president at GfK and co-author of the study. "They could be more engaged with the advertisement they see because it's something they're deliberately going out to watch."

Among the players in sports media, BleacherReport.com, which is owned by Turner Sports Network, creates original videos around various teams, leagues and topics. ESPN.com allows cable subscribers to live stream its TV broadcast; it says the rest of its video offerings online are roughly 30% highlights, 35% original content and 35% content clipped from TV shows.

Sporting News, which went all digital last year after 126 years in print, is adding five original online shows over the next several months. "Advertisers are interested in original programming," said Jeff Price, president of Sporting News Media. "But we're thinking about the reader first and then bringing in the advertiser in an authentic way."

ESPN ranked second in April for unique U.S. visitors consuming video, according to ComScore, following Perform, which licenses sports clips to other sites, and just ahead of PilatesForLife.TV. Sporting News Media, now partly owned by Perform, ranked 12th and Sports Illustrated sites ranked 16th, ComScore said.

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