Ross Levinsohn Leads The Arena Group, Sports Illustrated With Banner 2022
2022 was a banner year for many brands, but it wasn’t without its challenges. Geopolitical turmoil, economic slowdowns, and supply chain disruptions made it difficult for companies around the world to generate positive returns.
In spite of these challenges, Ross Levinsohn, CEO of Sports Illustrated and The Arena Group, led his team to success. The Arena Group experienced exponential growth in 2022, thanks in large part to Levinsohn’s leadership and innovative growth strategies. During the year, The Arena Group acquired a wider range of properties, strategically hired experienced leaders, improved its financial performance, and saw all-around gains in viewership that equip it for success going into 2023.
Ross Levinsohn’s Acquisition-First Approach
The Arena Group owns Sports Illustrated, TheStreet, Hubpages, and 250 other publications in the sports, finance, and lifestyle arenas. In 2022, Ross Levinsohn grew Arena Group’s viewership by acquiring other publications that fit within these three major focus areas.
Levinsohn’s team acquired Fexy Studios, a creative agency that produces TV shows and digital programs. This acquisition added episodic TV to The Arena Group’s portfolio, including two video franchises and a library of over 15,000 videos. With Fexy Studios under its corporate umbrella, The Arena Group now has the power to boost its video production capabilities, which will make it more competitive in the digital media space in 2023.
Ross Levinsohn also led The Arena Group’s acquisition of several properties from Accelerate360 in 2022. In this acquisition, The Arena Group expanded its sports, fitness, and lifestyle coverage by adding Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Surfer, Powder, Bike, Skateboarding, Snowboarder, and NewSchoolers to its portfolio. “This strategic investment underscores our commitment to diversifying and devoting resources to opportunities where we see the most value across The Arena Group,” the Sports Illustrated CEO said of the acquisition.
In an effort to expand its Sports Illustrated offerings, The Arena Group acquired golf website Morning Read from Buffalo Groupe in 2022. Levinsohn’s team rebranded the publication as SI Golf to add expertise and depth to Sports Illustrated’s golf coverage.
The Arena Group’s final high-profile acquisition included the multimedia content company AMG/Parade, which includes Parade Media. The Arena Group purchased the property for $16.3 million in a bid to significantly grow its lifestyle content arena.
Arena Group Expands Its Expertise With Strategic Hires
Solid leadership is the key to growth. While Ross Levinsohn’s strategies grew The Arena Group in 2022, he sought to build out the company’s domain expertise with strategic hiring.
Ross Levinsohn tapped Chris Pirrone to serve as senior vice president and general manager of the Sports Illustrated Media Group. In his previous role as USA Today’s Sports Media Group general manager, Pirrone grew audiences from 10 million to 60 million monthly. He brings more than two decades of digital media experience to the table, which he plans to use to grow The Arena Group’s sports properties, including Sports Illustrated.
Miles Stiverson also joined The Arena Group as senior vice president and general manager of lifestyle. He previously worked with people.com and Travel + Leisure. Ross Levinsohn wanted to expand his company’s lifestyle content through the acquisition of parade.com, which Stiverson will manage. Stiverson will also work on The Arena Group’s partnerships, products, site launches, and acquisitions for lifestyle content.
Finally, The Arena Group added Stephanie Mazzamaro as vice president of data strategy and operations, advertising, partnerships, and revenue. Previously, Mazzamaro worked at Univision and Forbes; she also helped Trusted Media Brands transition away from third-party cookies during her time at the company. Mazzamaro will help invest in The Arena Group’s data infrastructure, with the goal of making it easier to expand advertisers’ reach in its all-in-one platform.
Arena Group Saw Marked Financial Growth in 2022
Bolstered by strategic acquisitions and expert leadership, The Arena Group saw record levels of financial growth for multiple quarters in 2022.
The Arena Group saw a 44% increase in revenue in Q1 2022, jumping from $33.6 million in Q1 2021 to $48.2 million in Q1 2022. Digital ad revenue increased by 127%, going from $9.5 million in Q1 2021 to $21.6 million in Q1 2022. The Arena Group improved profitability, too. Its gross profit percentage increased from 16% in Q1 2021 to 41% in Q1 2022.
“In the first quarter, we drove substantial revenue growth and more than tripled our gross profit, all while maintaining a 1% increase in cost of revenue, which enabled us to meaningfully narrow net losses. This validates both our strategy and platform advantages. We are growing our audience at a rapid pace, and with it our revenue, and increasingly selling direct digital advertising, our highest value ad units, across our entire portfolio,” said Sports Illustrated CEO Ross Levinsohn.
In Q2 2022, digital ad revenue increased 114% year over year for The Arena Group. Total revenue also increased by 87% in Q2. “The continued growth in partners, traffic, data, and impressions allow us to provide attractive returns for advertisers,” Levinsohn explained. Traffic increased by 82% during this time and display CPMs (the cost per 1,000 impressions) increased by another 40%.
The Arena Group also saw tremendous growth in Q3 2022. It earned $66.7 million in revenue in that period, making this the highest-earning quarter in company history. Gross profit was $26.2 million and Ross Levinsohn also managed to decrease quarterly operating expenses by $11.1 million. “This is a watershed quarter for the company with record revenue, lower costs, audience, and advertising growth with increasing yield and profitability,” Levinsohn said.
Ross Levinsohn Leads The Arena Group to Success in 2023
The Arena Group maintained its stellar track record in 2022. In fact, the company offered shares of common stock in an underwritten public offering that went live on the New York Stock Exchange in February 2022 (AREN). This move raised $30 million in capital. The Arena Group is also poised to join the Russell 3000, Russell 2000, and Russell Microcap indexes.
Last year, The Arena Group saw its largest jump in viewership in company history: It logged over 112 million unique viewers in January 2022. This put the company at No. 34 in the United States — a jump of nearly 60 spots since 2021. At this rate, The Arena Group is growing 35% month over month. In fact, its digital properties reached 40% of U.S. adults in 2022.
While 2023 promises to be yet another challenging year, The Arena Group, and Sports Illustrated, are poised to make the most of new opportunities under Ross Levinsohn’s leadership. The technology-first approach and strategic expansions promise to grow The Arena Group in 2023 and beyond. “It isn’t by accident that we’ve grown. It isn’t by accident that SI has had kind of a rebirth. But it is all tied to the exact same thing we had when I was growing up — the brand is trusted, the brand is meaningful and sports are really important to people and we’ve tried to embrace that,” Levinsohn told Forbes.