Bikini bottoms boost Time Warner's bottom line

The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue hits newsstands today, and readers aren't the only ones excited about its debut.

By InvestorPlace Feb 9, 2010 2:17PM

InvestorPlaceAs cultural phenomena go, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue gets vastly more ink than it spends, and it has done so for some 45 years.

 

Time Warner (TWX), the owner of Sports Illustrated, is said to rake in 7% of its total ad revenue for the year from this single issue of the magazine.

 

As with all things print, the focus is on advertising revenue, and this issue of the magazine does its job. Ad pages are the same as a year ago, as major advertisers have once more bought a significant amount of advertising to surround the beautiful women in their teeny bikinis.

 

The swimsuit issue will certainly boost Time Warner's first quarter 2010 numbers. And those numbers could use some help.

 

Just how bad are things for print? According to Ad Age, in 2008 the 100 top media companies in the U.S. managed to grow revenue by less than 1%. And if you eliminate cable and satellite TV, 2008 revenue for these companies actually fell by 2.2%. Through the first half of 2009, again excluding cable/satellite, revenue has fallen another 8.3%.

 

Time Warner's revenues in the fourth quarter of 2009 totaled $1.1 billion, down 13% from a year ago and 19% sequentially. Bad as that is, it signals a bit of recovery going on in the magazine world.

The punch line, of course, is that sex still sells. Not only does it sell, it generates controversy -- which may sell even better than sex these days.

 

The argument that the swimsuit issue objectifies women for the entertainment of men is countered by the argument that it is all harmless and everyone should just lighten up. No matter which side of this argument you come down on, the fact that the argument exists is enough to sell copies of the magazine.

 

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