Three years after launch, digital sports site The Athletic hits a major milestone. It has surpassed 500,000 subscribers, and it hopes to double that number by year end, says Bloomberg. Calling itself the new standard in sports journalism, The Athletic launched in 2016 as a subscription-only digital sports site that vowed to cover sports in-depth, better than anyone else.
Go beyond the box score with quality local and national sports coverage from an all-star team of writers. No ads, no clickbait – only stories with substance, says The Athletics home page.
A subscription to The Athletic is currently available for $3.99 a month, billed annually, a 20% discount off its normal annual rate. For subscribers who prefer to pay monthly, the cost is $9.99 a month. Student plans are available for $29.99 per year for up to four years, 50% off the standard annual price. Non-student plans include a seven-day free trial.
In exchange for the subscription fee, The Athletic offers the following:
- Detailed sports analysis
- Exclusive stories from top sports writers
- In-depth coverage beyond the box score
- An ad-free experience
- A customizable, five-star-rated mobile app
- Access to a community of sports fans and sports journalists
The Athletic first covered Chicago sports including the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Bulls. The digital-only publisher has since branched out to 50 cities across the United States and Canada, often poaching sports writers and columnists from local sports outlets. The Athletic covers about 270 major league sports teams including NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, NHL, soccer, motorsports, college sports, fantasy football and MMA. Bloomberg reports that The Athletic plans to include coverage of English Premier Soccer league, starting in August.
The Athletic is adamant that it does not want to operate using an ad-supported model, and they explain why on their website. Heres a brief excerpt from a January 2018 blog post:
The Athletic is different. We are not ESPN or TSN, who can have auto-play video ads and push customers to their cable networks for major sources of revenue. Were focused on fans who want high quality, in-depth coverage of their teams, content that isnt designed to service advertisers or clicks. Its designed solely to be informative and entertaining.
The Athletic would not happen on an ad revenue model. Trust me, Ive looked into it. So far, weve seen that it can work through low-cost subscriptions. By all indications, well be around for a long time, write James Mirtle, editor-in-chief, The Athletic Canada.
Founded by Adam Hansmann and Alex Mather, The Athletic has raised $89.5 million in six funding rounds. Investors include Founders Fund, Bedrock Capital Partners, Y Combinator and Precursor Ventures, along with others, according to Crunchbase. Hansmann and Mather thanked their subscribers on LinkedIn.
As The Athletic points out in their blog post, there are two kinds of sports fans – those who are willing to pay for quality coverage of their favorite sports and teams, and those who believe sports coverage should be free. The Athletic is only trying to appeal to the premium fans who believe that The Athletic’s work is worth paying for. They are definitely a niche market, but they keep their prices low and they keep expanding the sports and markets they cover.
Even without promotional pricing, their subscription fees are reasonable, and they provide more than just content. They provide interaction, experiences and a connection to other fans and the sports writers they know and trust. From beginning, The Athletic has kept to its singular mission – high quality sports journalism – and they continue to hold true to that mission.