SI bundles print, mobile subscriptions

By Dow Jones Newswires
Posted Feb. 11 at 2:07 p.m.

Sports Illustrated said Friday that it’s offering new digital subscription plans, including one that bundles the printed magazine with versions that are available online, on Android smart phones and tablets, as well as  forthcoming devices.

Time Inc., the owner of the magazine and the publishing arm of Time Warner Inc. , has yet to reach an agreement with Apple Inc., maker of the iPad tablet and iPhone, to sell the subscriptions on iTunes, but its new offerings are part of a broader effort to create a subscription platform that allows customers to sign up once and access publications in any medium, including print.
“These offerings are representative of where we are moving as a company,” said Randall Rothenberg, chief digital officer of Time Inc., which also publishes People and Fortune magazines.

Sports Illustrated’s subscription for print and digital access costs $48 per year, or about $4.99 per month, while a digital-only subscription will cost $3.99 per month. Current print subscribers will have free access to the digital package for the remainder of their term.

The move reflects the rise of digital media, which is rapidly transforming the industry and leading publishers to seek new online business models that can offset declines in their traditional print business and spur new growth in what is a shrinking industry. Time Warner is making similar efforts to build consumer-friendly digital subscription models in its TV and film businesses.

Its publishing efforts have been held up by disagreements with Apple — the most powerful digital device maker — over the ability to offer subscriptions to iPad editions. Apple recently launched a mechanism for selling iPad subscriptions, but some publishers aren’t satisfied with the offering in part because it limits their ability to sell iPad editions as a package with print and other digital versions.

Sports Illustrated launched a new magazine iPad application eight months ago, but the digital version of the title can be purchased only a la carte.

Rothenberg said Time Inc. “continues to talk” to Apple about selling subscriptions in iTunes. “We love Apple. We love the iPad.”

Yet Time Inc. executives say Apple’s policies have held back magazines including  Sports Illustrated. Terry McDonell, Sports Illustrated editor, said the magazine can’t build the digital audience it wants without a subscription model. He said it “bums us out” when executives read the reviews on iTunes complaining about the price, which is $4.99 per issue.

Rothenberg said new tech partners offering more flexible terms will drive traffic away from the stores that “lock us out.”

With Apple talks stalling, publishers have turned their attention to devices running on Android operating software from Google Inc., which publishers say is more flexible with better financial terms.

Sports Illustrated will share some subscription revenue with Google, though terms were unavailable. Apple takes a 30 percent cut on sales through iTunes.

Among the new devices powered by Google’s Android are the Galaxy Tab from Samsung Electronics Co. and the Xoom from Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. A version of Sports Illustrated on the Xoom was showcased last week.

Subscriptions to Sports Illustrated and other Time Inc. publications such as People also will be available on Hewlett-Packard Co.’s coming TouchPad, which was unveiled Wednesday in San Francisco.

Time Inc. makes some Sports Illustrated content available for free  at, but the digital magazine version allows users to display enhanced photographs from the print product and zoom in and out with a tap of their finger.

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One comment:

  1. Hmm... Feb. 13 at 1:54 pm

    Perhaps the struggling Playboy should take a clue…