Sports Illustrated Tees Up Live Internet Talkshow

Half-hour “SI Now Powered by Ford” weekday strip hosted by Maggie Gray debuts June 3

It’s not going head-to-head with ESPN by any stretch, but Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated is making its first foray into regularly scheduled live videocasts with a weekday online talkshow set to bow June 4.

“SI Now Powered by Ford,” 30-minute daily chatfest about biggest sports stories, will run on SI.com Monday through Friday at 1 p.m. ET. Show will be hosted by Maggie Gray (pictured), who became SI’s first digital sports anchor in 2010, and will feature appearances by the mag’s writers and editors, newsmakers and special guests.

“Maggie’s one of the smartest sports people I know,” said Ian Orefice, exec producer for Time Inc. News and Sports. “This will be the best conversation in sports.”

The 59-year-old sports publishing property is the first Time Inc. title to produce a regular, live video series. The Ford sponsorship deal runs through November, at which point SI will reevaluate the show’s format, Orefice said.

Execs were inspired to launch the “SI Now” after seeing a spike in daily website traffic at about 1 p.m. Original name for the talkshow was “Lunchtime Live,” but “we realized we needed a broader title,” said SI.com managing editor Matt Bean.

The show will be shot at Time Inc.’s Manhattan offices, but also will travel to the major sporting events. For example, during the week of June 10, “SI Now” will be on location at the U.S. Open golf tourney in Ardmore, Pa.

Viewers of the live shows will be able to submit questions to Gray and guests. In addition to trying to attract live audiences, SI is structuring the show so it will play well for on-demand replays.

“This is an engine for content that can be cut up and pollinated across different areas of the site — that’s the long tail play,” Bean said.

The mag’s SI Video unit launched in 2010 and now produces about 50 original videos each week. Live productions have included “SI Swimsuit Live 2013,” a one-hour red carpet special simulcast across YouTube and Dailymotion, People.com and EW.com, plus 30-minute previews of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and the 2013 NFL Draft.

Other companies with print roots reaching into Internet video include Condé Nast and Dow Jones & Co.’s Wall Street Journal, which both presented new original content plans at the Digital Content NewFronts this spring.

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