The Arena Group, Publisher Of Sports Illustrated, Acquires Morning Read
The Arena Group, a digital-media publisher operating a roster of over 240 brands including Sports Illustrated (under a license from Authentic Brands Group) as well as The Street, The Spun and Parade, is amping up their golf coverage by acquiring Morning Read from Buffalo Groupe.
“This is another step in growing quality storytelling and experiences for consumers, further expanding our footprint in one of the most valuable categories in all of sports,” Ross Levinsohn, CEO of The Arena Group and Sports Illustrated, said.
Sports Illustrated Media Group reached 55.9 million unique visitors in August 2022 and they are the number five player on the digital sports media leaderboard according to analytics firm ComscoreSCOR-4.1%. ESPN tops the list trailed by Latin American powerhouse Globo Esportes, Yahoo Sports NBC Sports Network and Playmaker.
Last summer Morning Read struck an editorial partnership deal with Sports Illustrated to publish their golf content on SI’s website. The Arena Group has now acquired the media property, bringing their editorial team and content in-house and rebranding it as SI Golf. While Morning Read’s audience metrics have not been made public, according to Sports Illustrated its daily email newsletter has an impressive 40% open rate and their weekly equipment newsletter has a 50% open rate.
There is currently an earthquake of excitement and intrigue shaking up the highest echelon of the sport due to the PGA Tour’s ongoing tussle with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series that has put politics on par with player performance.
“It’s a pretty wild time for golf. The audience engagement is the highest since I’ve been around and interested in it. Not only are the PGA and LPGA Tours creating interesting storylines, but the introduction of LIV and how the competition between tours brings out players’ personalities and increases competition is generating a lot of conversation,” Chris Pirrone, senior vice president and general manager of Sports Illustrated Media Group, said.
“It’s really interesting to talk golf with people now because it stems way beyond who won and who lost and what equipment they’re using. There are now all these conversations around the business of golf and how it fits together,” he added.
Pirrone came aboard in June following a ten-year stint at USA Today Sports Media Group where he oversaw a sports vertical that included Golfweek (one of the acquisitions he spearheaded) and For The Win. During Pirrone’s tenure, audience numbers grew sixfold from 10 million to 60 million monthly viewers and annual revenue eclipsed $100 million.
The golf media landscape is currently led by entrenched legacy outlets Golf and Golf Digest as well as the PGA Tour’s own website. But SI sees plenty of opportunity to carve out a bigger slice of the pie and compete by offering a differentiated voice and leaning into travel, gear, fantasy coverage and their storytelling strengths.
“In the short term I don’t think our goal is to be the biggest. What we are shooting for is to bring something unique to the table—not just your standard coverage of the PGA Tour. News is going to drive page views and audiences to you but what else can you do that is a little bit different,” he explained.
“Of course I want to grow the audience, but it’s also about unique angles and unique coverage and that’s why somebody might come to us rather than a competitor” added Pirrone.
SI views the Morning Read acquisition as just the beginning. Golf content is consumed by a highly coveted demographic with lofty household income levels and a desire to purchase products related to their pastime—a recipe for lucrative ecommerce opportunities.
“Frankly I’d like to keep acquiring things in the golf vertical. To me this is just the start,” Pirrone admitted.
Media property prospects that squarely hit all the bullet points on SI’s wish list include traditional print publications they feel they can enhance and expand along with podcasts, newsletters and even social accounts with significant audience engagement.