The Athletic has lost more than 1,100 subscribers since the sports site was purchased by the New York Times last month, with many more readers opting not to renew, a source directly involved with the Times takeover told OutKick.
The Times purchased The Athletic on Jan. 6, rescuing the fledgling subscription-only site with $550 million in cash, the primary purpose being to build its own subscription database.
Eventually, those subscribers will be delivered more than content from The Athletic, and very likely eventually steered away from content on The Athletic and toward the Times’ content, the source said.
Another source familiar with the Times takeover told OutKick that The Athletic “as we know it will soon cease to exist. … That version of The Athletic is dying a slow death.”
The source declined to elaborate for fear that it would reveal their identity, “given my closeness to the situation.”
It is hard to know how many subscribers The Athletic actually brought to the Times, as co-founders Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann have been notoriously vague (or outright dishonest) about those figures.
Regardless, the first source said “a combination of the subscriber database and the large writer database to promote (the Times)” was what made the purchase worthwhile. He added that the Times expected The Athletic to lose subscribers following the transaction, “but certainly not at this rate.”
While neither source confirmed widespread speculation that editorial changes are on the way at The Athletic, the second did say anyone who understands business can read between the lines.
“When you take over a company that had lost, you know, $100 million over the last two years, it’s never going to be business as usual,” the source said. “Generally in these changes of ownership, yes, there are always changes in personnel — whether it’s professional sports or writing or talking about professional sports.
“This isn’t going to be any different. It would be foolish to believe otherwise.”