The 'New York Times' is buying sports site, 'The Athletic' for $550 million

The New York Times Building is seen in New York City on February 4, 2021. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AF...

$550 M

How much the reported sale is worth



The New York Times is pushing further into sports. According to, well, The New York Times, the paper has reached a deal to purchase The Athletic, a sports-subscription site, for around $550 million.

The Athletic was founded in 2016, during a period in sports journalism where the beat reporting (reporting with a focus on an individual team) often found in print magazines and newspapers, was beginning to wane. Layoffs were rampant across ESPN around the same time, which happened to be the dominant source for online sports journalism as the company attempted to cut costs as consumers started to gravitate away from cable packages.

The acquisition is huge — just two years ago Sports Illustrated was acquired for $110 million, a small fraction of what this deal between the NYT and The Athletic hovers around. The New York Times has set a goal to reach 10 million subscribers by 2025 and reported 8.3 million aggregate subscribers to both print and digital in late September.

The Athletic, which is reliant on paid subscribers (a yearly subscription is worth $72) did not expect to be profitable until 2023, in part due to its hefty staff — there are about 600 employees at the publication, with about 400 of them working in editorial. Those figures make it the second-largest employer of sports reporters in the country behind only ESPN.

Here’s some information on the nitty-gritty of the deal, which is paywalled:

The Athletic has built an avid following of sports fans--the majority of whom pay $72 a year, to follow their favorite teams--and the company grew its business by paying competitive salaries to poach experienced local sports journalists from major newspapers around the country. The Athletic is now looking to grow advertising revenue and recently launched a free daily newsletter. The company told investors last year it expected ad sales to reach $31 million in 2023.

Emphasis on digital— As cited in the New York Times’s own reporting on the deal, the move to purchase The Athletic is in line with the future vision of the publication. Meredith Kopit Levien, the company’s CEO, has apparently been preaching “the importance of adding digital subscribers” since taking charge of the paper’s business in 2020.

The Athletic is a digital-only site, and serves as the online hub for the traditional team reporting you would find in a local newspaper. National sports journalism has been reduced to basically two sites (ESPN and The Athletic), with some exceptions, so the move marks a major consolidation of existing coverage.