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It appears sports-subscription site The Athletic is back at it, re-negotiating with the New York Times in what appears to be a last-ditch attempt to find a buyer and rescue it from financial ruin.
Per A.J. Perez of Front Office Sports, The Athletic and Times are engaged in a third round of talks on a potential Times takeover.
The Athletic was founded by a pair of techies, Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann, and techies are rarely honest about what’s actually taking place. The Athletic has already been exposed for floating false information that sports fantasy giant FanDuel had an interest in a purchase, something FanDuel’s CEO vehemently denied.
One industry insider told OutKick that The Athletic doesn’t “even have a fraction” of the 1.2 million subscribers it claims to have — supposedly a sticking point in its negotiations to find a buyer.
The Athletic’s touting of 1.2 million subscribers is believed to be based on the numbers of total subscribers since its Chicago launch in 2016, and not its active subscribers. So the phony number include subscribers who signed up … and canceled after a single day. As for renewals, don’t even ask. It’s that bad.
“The Athletic had 1.2 million subscribers as of September,” Perez wrote, seemingly just taking The Athletic’s word for it.
Meanwhile, the insider told OutKick that “the lies just get bigger and bigger,” adding that Mather and Hansmann would be better off revealing the truth about the actual numbers than fudging them while seeking someone to take over their fledgling company.
But as Perez noted, The Athletic is nearing its six-year anniversary “and has yet to turn a profit.” In fact, it actually lost $41 million last year alone.
Anyway, the second round of talks between The Athletic and the Times fell flat in June, leading to The Athletic cutting back on coverage in multiple markets. Several major sports beats are gone entirely.
Now, the ad-free website, which once promised to survive entirely off subscriptions, is reportedly considering allowing advertising and cutting back on the number of articles that feature its trademark paywall.
Will the Times finally offer The Athletic a financial life raft? It’s hard to see why it would. Turning a $41 million loss into a profit would mean basically doing the opposite of how The Athletic operates today. That doesn’t seem like it would be worth the hassle or the cost.
But there’s one thing we can count on, and that’s The Athletic continuing to bleed money while the co-founders fudge its numbers and continue to pretend as if everything is just fine.
Note: A representative of The Athletic contacted OutKick and issued the following statement: “The Athletic has more than 1.2M active subscribers and the accusations made in this story lack merit of any kind.”
OutKick has invited Alex Mather, founder of The Athletic, to be interviewed on his efforts to sell the company.