Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year Awards are going where the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and ESPYs have gone before. The magazine’s top honors will be broadcast nationally for the first time thanks to a new deal with NBCSN, Variety has learned. The event has previously only been available for viewing online. It will now be broadcast on Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. ET as an hourlong special.
“The franchise is one of our crown jewels and it translates easily to television,” said Chris Stone, editorial director of Time Inc.’s Sports Group, which oversees the publication. “One thing that television does better than any other platform is capture emotion, and this is an evening with a lot of emotion.”
Stone said he’s long believed that the show should be broadcast — a feeling that intensified at last year’s awards show when he glanced over to the side of the stage and saw football great Peyton Manning engrossed in a casual conversation with basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“Even if we were tweeting or posting on Instagram, we couldn’t capture the excitement of the night like we can with television,” Stone said.
Last year, Stone and Josh Oshinsky, executive producer of sports at Time Inc. Productions, streamed the show as sort of a test run.
“It was such a huge step up,” Oshinsky said. “We learned a lot about what equipment to use, as well as got a sense of the feel and the pacing of the show. It’s very different to do one of these things for a national television audience.”
Sportsperson of the year is given to the athlete, team, or coach who best exemplifies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement. It has been presented annually since 1954, the year the magazine launched. Past honorees have included Michael Phelps, Serena Williams, and Michael Jordan. In addition, the magazine also hands out the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, sports kid of the year, rising star, performance of the year, and the hope award.
The telecast is being produced by Time Inc. Productions, the company’s television production division, and has tapped Robert Morton and Daniel Kellison as executive producers. Executive producers from Time Inc. are Steve Cannella, Ian Orefice, and Oshinsky. The move comes as Time is grappling with print advertising declines by moving heavily into video content. Last week, the company launched Sports Illustrated TV, its first over-the-top subscription-video service, which is available on Amazon for $4.99 per month. The company has also started ad-supported entertainment and lifestyle channel PeopleTV.
NBCSN will air encores of the broadcast on Dec. 10 at 10 p.m. ET and Dec. 12 at 11:30 p.m. ET.