After more than 40 years of progressing through a successful media industry career, Ross Levinsohn stepped into the position of Sports Illustrated CEO in 2016. At this key moment in the publishing brand’s 70-year history, it was experiencing turmoil related to the internet. Sports Illustrated has relied on print magazine subscriptions and advertisements for most of its history. After the internet became front-and-center in consumers’ lives, Sports Illustrated designed and monetized a website to take income potential to a new level. However, the popularity of the website was shifting consumer preference away from print subscriptions. Sports Illustrated CEO Levinsohn knew that a major change was needed to tackle this problem.
Levinsohn’s professional history has included a variety of top executive roles at prestigious media companies. Some of his work activities have been with Fox, Whisper Advisors, CBS Sportsline, Guggenheim Digital Media, Yahoo! and Maven Media. These experiences have prepared Levinsohn to be a successful leader at Sports Illustrated in various ways. For example, while Levinsohn was working as the Chief Executive Officer at Maven Media, he was in charge of handling monetization efforts for hundreds of the company’s clients. For one client, The Street with Jim Cramer, Levinsohn identified the need for the brand to expand its content to cover cryptocurrencies. Through the establishment of a secondary paywall that specifically encompassed cryptocurrency content, Levinsohn was able to round out the brand’s income-generation capabilities.
For Sports Illustrated, Levinsohn’s overall goal was to raise the website’s money-making capabilities. However, he wanted to do so without adding a new content line to the mix. The Sports Illustrated CEO determined that creating a premium subscription level was the right solution. For premium subscribers, early access to the website’s content was granted. Sports Illustrated is only one of many brands that needed to transition its online revenue generation capabilities. Because of the notable success of Levinsohn’s new paywall strategy, some of these other brands were inspired to do the same.