New York Times to purchase the Athletic for $550m
The New York Times have agreed to purchase subscription-based sports media site the Athletic for $550 million for an all cash purchase. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2022.
In a press release, Meredith Kopit Levian, the New York Times president and CEO, makes clear that the Athletics strong subscription base played a major role in the Times acquisition, however the Athletic will be a ‘complement’ and a ‘subsidiary’ of the Times Company continuing to operate separately. The Athletic’s founders, Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann will remain on the board following the acquisition, though each will now report to the Times Company David Perpich, who will be named The Athletic’s publisher.
Founded in 2016, the Athletic had 1.2 million subscribers as of December 2021 providing extensive sports coverage for fans through a subscription model, what it has called, “smarter coverage for die-hard fans.” They have achieved this through a combination of day-to-day beat reporting alongside long-form analysis and original reporting found in national print media and magazines. At present, the Athletic has coverage for 40 US cities, seven Canadian cities and the UK.
Previous reporting indicated that the Athletic had been in discussions with a variety of media outfits since 2021, including sports betting giants DraftKings and FanDuel according to the Information, though it is not clear if any bids were received.
The deal highlights the New York Times push towards a subscription-first model, a growing trend across the media landscape, as the industry has been dealing with declines in advertising and print readership.
In the last three years the company said it has added more than 8 million paid subscribers across its digital and print products. Levian said the NYT hopes the Athletic would help to realise their goal of 10 million subscriptions and indeed strengthen their pursuit of a goal “meaningfully larger” than the 10 million.
Until either organization releases a statement regarding any future plans for the Athletic, any further analysis of the deal’s implications would be speculative at this point, however it does represent a significant consolidation in digital sports media.