What a month for the Sports Illustrated moniker. Amid a month of launches, relaunches and brand evolution, the company not only unleashed a slate of ambitious digital projects in recent weeks, it also nailed a record day with its exclusive story on LeBron James’ new home, notching 6.1 million UVs. SI Digital’s recent projects have continued to expand the brand’s umbrella and all provide a mobile-first mindset, including a new SI.com digital platform, the launch of 120 Sports as well as the debut of FanNation, a suite of daily fantasy sports games.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with Jim DeLorenzo, Vice President and General Manager of SI.com and Golf.com about the aggressive digital strategy and how it will impact fans as well as the company.
DeLorenzo on revamping the digital DNA: When I started here a little over two years ago, our digital property was essentially SI.com. It wasn’t at the time a very cutting edge website but that was all we had. So, the idea was that we needed to go beyond that and go from SI.com to Sports Illustrated Digital and create more of a platform approach where SI.com was going to be one of the pillars of that platform, along with other products and services under an umbrella strategy. That resulted in a process where we’ve now relaunched SI.com, which is a much more, cutting-edge site and we’ve made sure to make it mobile first. Beyond that, we have 120 Sports, FanNation, and others that have each played a role in expanding our reach and our voice.
On the new SI Digital: We had to do everything differently. We were formerly on the Turner platform and as we started to look at where we wanted to take the site, and to be mobile first, we also wanted to look at how we could help our editorial side and allow them to do what they do best, which was to create award-winning journalism. So we put on our thinking caps, and realized we were going to have to build this from scratch, soup-to-nuts. It was a complex process, when you are not just launching a new site, but also building a new CMS, an entirely new front end as well as migrate all that content that was on the primary system. So there were a lot of moving pieces but we are happy with where we ended up. There is so much flexibility there, not just in the way we can program it, but in the way we can continue and develop on this platform. This is really only the first inning and we expect to continue to make a lot of changes and improvement going forward.
On launch of 120 Sports: It took time to get all the pieces in place for 120 Sports. It was not an easy process to get the deals done and the partners aligned. It has become a great partnership now with MLBAM as well as the NHL, the PGA TOUR and some of the other partners that we have. I have to say, now that we are off and running, it is really a great product and the response has been amazing. I think that 120 is doing a great job at living up to the promise. We are three weeks in and we are going to continue to get better. I can tell you that I am personally very pleased with the traction and downloads that we’ve seen.
On FanNation: FanNation has been a long time in the works. We looked at the fantasy landscape and knew that it didn’t make sense for us to jump into the Commissioner-style games. The costs were high, you already had the established players, we knew it didn’t make sense to come in on that level. Then we saw that daily fantasy was a growing segment within the fantasy sector and we thought that it had a chance to explode and become even bigger because of the mindset needed. People talk about snackable content, well this is almost like snackable fantasy in that you can get in and out of the games very quickly. The daily fantasy world was very attractive, so when we decided to move forward, we wanted something that was, once again, mobile-first, and the mandate was that I needed to – in a minute or less- be able to open the app, draft a team, challenge my friend and be done. I think we accomplished this.