While The Athletic found a life raft in the New York Times, the subscription-based sports website spent 2021 much like it did the previous two years. It bled millions upon millions upon millions in cash.
How much? Well, according to the Times, the figure was a whopping $55 million. That surpassed even the $54 million The Athletic lost in 2019. It reportedly lost $41 million in 2020, and with the way things have gone for The Athletic, losing less than $50 million in a year can probably be considered a win.
Actually, when it comes to The Athletic’s financials, there is no winning. Only degrees of losing.
And by the way, yes, it was the New York Times that released the figures on The Athletic’s massive losses. Interesting that the same company that purchased the site — for $550 million — is revealing just how terribly it performs.
This is pretty wild. The Athletic has lost hundreds of millions of dollars since its launch and never made close to a profit. It’s the CNN+ of sports. https://t.co/0vSS6YoCqF
With all this in mind, there’s a reason people within the media industry believe The Athletic is headed for some sweeping changes.
Several insiders have suggested to OutKick that the Times intends to keep only the most noted writers with larger social media followings, turning the site into solely a national brand. As of now, it offers local coverage of sports teams throughout the U.S. and internationally.
Others say the Times intend to keep the local coverage, but with considerably fewer writers and editors in each location, doing away with “beat” coverage of teams and sticking solely to longer, more in-depth and timeless feature pieces.
Along with “insider” pieces on the NFL, NBA and MLB, the long-form stories tend to do better than the day-to-day coverage locally, sources revealed. But neither has generated much of a profit, when taking into account the salary of some writers and how little cash many of their stories are generating.
The Times rescued the fledgling subscription-only site on Jan. 6, the primary purpose being to build its own subscription database.
At the time, a 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.”
Multiple reports say The Athletic has actually lost subscriptions and renewals — both of which serve as the heartbeat of the site — since being purchased by the Times.