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Welcome to the Show: Spokane-based SBLive Sports partners with Sports Illustrated

The team at SBLive Sports includes, from left, Dan Dickau, Regan Dickson, Gray Reid, Dan Beach and Zach Bonneau. The company’s office is in The Spokesman-Review Building in downtown Spokane.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
The team at SBLive Sports includes, from left, Dan Dickau, Regan Dickson, Gray Reid, Dan Beach and Zach Bonneau. The company’s office is in The Spokesman-Review Building in downtown Spokane. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

Growing up, Sports Illustrated magazines were Dan Beach’s go-to for national sports news and stories.

“If you’re in your 50s (now), that was how you got your sports,” said Beach, a Spokane native. “If you’re in your 20s, you’ve probably only heard about the swimsuit edition.”

Beach ended up embarking on his own career in sports media, which led to him cofounding his own media company called SBLive Sports, formerly known as Scorebook Live. The Spokane-based company is centered on the high school sports market, offering articles, highlights, power rankings and more via a mobile app, website and social media platforms.

Now, SBLive and Sports Illustrated publisher The Arena Group have announced a new partnership to make SBLive a member of the Sports Illustrated Media Group.

As part of the partnership, the Spokane company will migrate its content services to platforms used by The Arena Group, giving SBLive access to improved content management and advertising technology – and more exposure, Beach said.

Beyond aesthetic changes to the website, Beach said the changeover with Sports Illustrated branding should be mostly seamless for users. Eighty percent of SBLive’s audience is mobile, he added.

“It was a no-brainer. It was an iconic brand that isn’t in the high school space that wanted to be,” Beach said. “We all grew up with Sports Illustrated, and this is an opportunity for us, and them, to introduce (Sports Illustrated) to a generation of teenagers that maybe didn’t.”

The Cowles Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review, is SBLive’s lead investor, Beach said.

SBLive will remain independent, as the partnership with Sports Illustrated is not an acquisition of the kind announced earlier this year with The Arena Group’s purchase of The Spun, an online sports publication, Beach said.

“The best part about this was our two content organizations met multiple times leading up to this and felt that culturally, processwise, professionally, it was a fit,” he said. “There was a high value on professional journalism, and SI is known for that. We are becoming known for that.”

Sports Illustrated, founded in 1954, has worked to evolve since its heyday with the transition of traditional print media to a more digital landscape.

The magazine was sold in 2019 to the New York City-based Authentic Brands Group, which then sold the magazine’s print and digital publishing rights to The Arena Group. The Arena Group, known as Maven until rebranding in September, has spent nearly two years expanding the new sites part of the Sports Illustrated Media Group, a collective anchored by its namesake, according to Forbes.

“We are pleased to collaborate with and support SBLive to enhance the coverage of high school athletes as they continue their athletic journey,” Eric Aledort, The Arena Group’s senior vice president of business development and partnerships, said in a statement. “We value the content and success Dan and the team have had and look forward to growing the audience together.”

Beach, who previously worked at ESPN, said Scorebook Live started out by building apps, live scoreboards, bracket technology and other software tools for use by high school sports teams and state associations.

Initially developed as a scorebook app to more effectively inform local media of high school scores and results, Beach said, Scorebook eventually transitioned into the sports media realm. The company has since deployed reporters to 10 different states with plans to eventually double that number, Beach said. Even still, the platform already has schedules and scores from select teams across the country.

The name changed to SBLive Sports in early 2020.

“It’s really a hyperlocal market. Highly fragmented,” Beach said of high school sports media. “That’s why we felt there was an opportunity, because for the longest time newspapers were really the traditional source for high school sports. And now as local newspapers have had other challenges, high school sports is one of the first things to go.”

Beach said he’s known Ross Levinsohn, CEO of The Arena Group, through various business meetings over the years. One of the first cobranded products out of the partnership will be a national high school basketball ranking called “The Power 25.”

The partnership comes after SBLive “weathered the storm of COVID” with the shutdown of high school sports that came early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Beach said.

Beach said the company expects that Sports illustrated can better “monetize the eyeballs” on SBLive content, providing more potential for growth.

SBLive Sports has a staff of 30 people, with another 40 to 50 freelance reporters and photographers on call.

“The existence of a nationally relevant sports media company being headquartered in Spokane, Washington, with Spokane investors would be pretty exciting,” Beach said. “Spokane is already a great sports town, thanks to the Zags, Hoopfest, Bloomsday, Spokane Chiefs and the Spokane Indians, so why not also have a sports media company here as well?”

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