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Time Inc. gambles with multi-platform bundled subscription model for Sports llustrated

NEW YORK - Time Inc. unveiled its paid content strategy with the debut of subscription plans for Sports Illustrated that bundle mobile, online and print into All Access multi-platform packages.

SI is launching subscription-based applications for Android tablets and smartphones, although consumers with Apple devices must still buy on a per-issue basis. This is the first of Time Inc.?s emerging digital subscription programs designed to offer consumers a flexible approach to accessing its branded titles.

?The one crucial part of the plan is that we have a subscription model, where SI subscribers?the source of the power of this brand?can subscribe to access digital versions of the magazine,? said Terry McDonell, group editor of Sports Illustrated at Time Inc., New York.

?The company depends on our relationship with readers, and we now have a subscription model that will allow you as a subscriber to get the print, tablet, smartphone and Web site edition that showcases the content of the magazine,? he said. ?The subscription prices are all-inclusive, and I believe we?re the first to do this.

?The content should not get lost in the conversations about how cool our apps are?it all comes back to the storytelling, the design and the look and feel of these.?

Time Inc., a Time Warner company, publishes 22 magazines and 26 Web sites in the U.S. and claims to be the country's largest magazine media company.

The Sports Illustrated media company includes the flagship magazine,, Golf Magazine,, SI Golf Plus, SI Presents, SI Kids, SI International, SI Books, SI Mobile, SI Swimsuit, SI Social, consumer products and Live Media.

SI goes all in on subscriptions
The new applications from the editors of Sports Illustrated are accessible to consumers who pay for the digital-only All Access subscription or the digital-plus-print tier.

In the last eight months, SI has introduced a new magazine iPad application, SI Snapshot developed in HTML5 for Google Chrome and a new SI Facebook Fantasy Football game.

There are also several new Swimsuit digital products, including 3D, coming out on Feb. 15.

And last week, Google showcased a concept for Sports Illustrated on the Android Honeycomb operating system.

Mr. McDonell said that SI views every new technology as an opportunity to provide its long-time subscribers with digital access to the magazine and at the same time attract new readers.

Sports Illustrated All Access includes new magazine applications for the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Android smartphones OS 2.1 and higher.

Web access to the issue after log in can be found at

The specific plans are print and digital for $48 annually or $4.99 per month. Digital only, which includes applications for the Samsung Galaxy, Android smartphones and the Web, costs $3.99 per month.

Current print subscribers have free access to the digital package throughout the remainder of their term.

Sports Illustrated currently claims to have approximately 3.15 million print subscribers.

?As a sports media company, the way to win is to get this great content to as many people as we possibly can,? said Mark Ford, president of the sports group and executive vice president at Time Inc. ?Technology has transformed our business in a way that we did not anticipate two or three years ago.

?On the advertising side, we continue to bundle packages together that are truly multiplatform, which is what works most effectively for marketers?experiential marketing across various new digital platforms,? he said. ?Advertisers want storytelling, and if you can put that together in a smart way, it works.

?It doesn?t matter what we think, it?s what they think, and they love the programs we are doing and they are behind a lot of the innovation we create.?

Apple of Time Inc.?s eye
During the media event to announce the new applications and the SI All Access plans, the Time Inc. executives handled several questions about the negotiations with Apple and the fact the SI apps for iPhone and iPad are still not included in the subscription packages.

?We love Apple?we were there at the launch of the iPad,? said Randall Rothenberg, senior vice president and chief digital officer of Time Inc. ?We have a great desire to sell subscriptions in the iTunes store, and we are confident that we will be able to sell subscriptions in the iTunes store at some point and extend this subscription model to all devices and environments.

?We are in an evolutionary stage of learning how to sell new products in new retail environments, experimenting with various price points and subscription models and figuring out how that is going to work,? he said. ?Those stores that lock us out, it just means that the other stores will get more sales, and you can still buy by single copies of issues in the App Store, just like on the newsstand.

?Our subscription model will not be a one-size-fits all solution?different strokes for different folks.?

From left to right: Mr. Ford, Mr. McDonell and Mr. Rothenberg

Time Inc. teams up with HP
Earlier last week, Time Inc. announced plans to make Time, Fortune, People and Sports Illustrated available for subscription on the HP TouchPad when it is introduced later this year.   

"I'm excited to see HP coming out with a new tablet product based on webOS, which had shown great promise with the Pre and the Pixi,? said Olivier Griot, principal of Blue Rain Media, New York. ?Partnering early with app publishers is a necessary step for a successful launch.

?It is a good sign to see mobile pioneers like Time Inc. embracing it from the beginning," he said.

Final Take
SI's Mr. McDonell