Earlier this week, Gannett-owned USA TODAY announced the launch of its newest premium product, USA TODAY Sports+. With a USA TODAY Sports+ subscription, subscribers can curate and customize their news and content, including video, audio and augmented reality. Initially, the premium sports product will be launched in seven markets: Arizona, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin. As part of the premium offering, subscribers will “have access” to Sports+ writers and USA TODAY journalists via SMS texting and live group chats.
“Gannett is betting big on sports. We are well positioned to reach our sports audience of over 53 million sports fans and capitalize on our large network of over 500 dedicated sports journalists, offering access and local perspective that is unrivaled,” said Michael Reed, Gannett chairman and CEO, in a September 7, 2021 news release.
“Our strategic agreement with Tipico, our incredible sports journalism and our USA TODAY Network footprint will ensure Sports+ engages our existing subscriber base, attracts new audiences as we provide exclusive content, experiences and product offerings so fans can literally fan harder,” added Reed.
Subscribers can access USA TODAY Sports+ via desktop, mobile web and a mobile app. Among the premium subscription’s features are “It’s a Football Podcast,” homepage customization, sports gaming insights and odds, and premium AR features.
To create the best experience, USA TODAY has hired Josina Anderson, an NFL expert with more than 20 years of experience.
“I am thrilled to announce the launch of USA TODAY Sports+, an interactive experience that allows us to engage in new ways while building personal connections with local communities across the country,” said Alicia DelGallo, Managing Editor, USA TODAY Sports+. “The investment in our diverse talent and emerging technology is particularly exciting for me, and I know that it will translate to a deeper connection with fans and their teams.”
To draw attention to the new subscription product, USA TODAY is working with KesselsKramer on a Fan Harder campaign to go through mid-November. They will use radio ads, billboards, banners, social media, digital displays and event sponsorships for the campaign.
For a limited time offer, USA TODAY Sports+ is offering monthly premium access with three months free and then monthly payments of $2.99 a month for 12 months. The regular price is $4.99 a month. Annual premium access is available with the first three months free, then $29.99 for 12 months. The regular price is $39.99 a year. Existing digital subscribers of “select Gannett properties in launch markets” (e.g., The Indianapolis Star, Detroit Free Press) will get access to USA TODAY Sports+ for free. Nonsubscribers can access three non-premium articles and one AR experience.
The news comes just two months after USA TODAY moved its premium content behind a paywall. At launch, USA TODAY offered promotional pricing ranging from $4.99 a month to $9.99. Some content on USATODAY.com is still available for free, but exclusive and premium content is only available to subscribers.
USA TODAY has been slow to embrace the traditional subscription model, and it is finally making the move. It will be interesting to see how (and if) subscribers and sports fans will warm up to the idea, particularly when there are already sports subscription packages available through services like ESPN+ and The Athletic. We expect USA TODAY will test and tweak their product as they learn what works and what doesn’t.