Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated biggest issue of the year — the Swimsuit Edition, which has nothing to do with actual sports — is still rooted in print.
But the mag has steadily built out its major money-maker into a multiplatform event spanning several weeks, despite perennial criticism that the feature shamelessly exploits and objectifies women. And this year, the SI Swimsuit fiesta will feature more video of youthful beach babes and related content splashed across TV, the web and mobile devices than ever.
The 2015 Swimsuit Edition launches on newsstands, SI.com, and tablet and mobile apps on Monday. That will include more than two hours of original video content of the models, as well as a live-stream of a concert by Kings of Leon and other special coverage on multiple Time Inc. sites over the course of the week.
Also, SI this year has expanded its deal with Scripps Networks Interactive’s Travel Channel to provide five, one-hour specials documenting the photo shoots and production of the swimsuit edition. (Travel has run only a single one-hour special the past two years). “SI: The Making of Swimsuit 2015” debuts Sunday, Feb. 15 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT to anchor the cable net’s “Beach Week” programming event.
“This is the most ambitious video launch we have ever done,” said Sports Illustrated group publisher Brendan Ripp. “The reason we’re doing it is simple: Video is — and continues to be — the hottest thing in media right now. Both consumers and advertisers can’t get enough.”
Time Inc. reps declined to discuss projected revenue from the SI Swimsuit Edition, or the expected split of print, digital ads and video. The company claims the franchise reaches some 70 million adults across multiple platforms.
The Kings of Leon concert during the 2015 SI Swimsuit Music and Fan Festival in Nashville will air live starting at 7 p.m. ET on Feb. 11 across multiple Time Inc. websites: SI.com, Time.com, People.com, EW.com, InStyle.com and the new Daily Cut platform (at dailycut.com and as an iOS or Android app).
This week, Sports Illustrated’s SI Now daily show will air 30-minute specials for SI.com (from 1-1:30 p.m. ET) live from New York and Nashville, Tenn., with six live programs to be produced around the fan events in both locations. 120 Sports, a joint venture of Time Inc., will be on location in Nashville with live programming and reports. In addition, People Now, that mag’s live digital show, will provide additional coverage for SI Swimsuit.
“We’re extending the franchise wherever it makes sense,” said J.R. McCabe, Time Inc. senior VP of video.
SI is also distributing swimsuit-related content on YouTube (see video above) and social platforms, but for now those are promotional vehicles, Ripp said: “We want to monetize on our own platforms.” (Brendan Ripp is the son of Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp.)
For Travel Channel, the five hours of programming was produced by Sports Illustrated Prods. The making-of specials — which took six months to produce — was shot on location across different U.S. locales, including Yellowstone National Park and the beaches of Kauai in Hawaii and Captiva Island in Florida.
“It’s a fit for us because it’s the most beautiful women in the most beautiful places in the world,” said Ross Babbit, senior VP of programming and development, Travel Channel. “Our viewers love to see gorgeous locations and gorgeous women… it allows them to escape the cold.”
Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Nina Agdal is featured in promos for the cabler’s “Beach Week,” and Travel has print ads for the programming block in this week’s issue and the three prior issues. Babbit said Travel Channel hasn’t received viewer complaints around the SI Swimsuit specials: “We make sure the programming we do is tasteful and family-friendly. But we don’t want to shy away from the fact that these are gorgeous women.”
Of course, SI has been hyping the 2015 Swimsuit launch for weeks. The cover image with model Hannah Davis (pictured below), a 24-year-old native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, was first unveiled on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on Feb. 4.
Photo credit: Ben Watts/Sports Illustrated