The site has about 600 employees — roughly 400 in its newsroom, making it the second-largest employer of sports journalists in the country, behind the Disney-owned ESPN. Like a number of digital media companies that have found success in recent years, The Athletic relies on subscribers, rather than advertisers, as its main source of revenue.
Jan. 7, 2022, 4:50 p.m. ET
Recently, as its rapid subscription growth began to slow, The Athletic explored various options, including selling a minority or majority stake in the company, with private equity firms and corporations as potential buyers.
The Athletic brought in about $65 million in revenue last year, with operating losses of roughly $55 million, Ms. Levien told analysts Thursday. Ms. Levien said The Athletic would eat into The Times’s profitability over the next three years, before adding to the bottom line, as it adds new subscribers and more advertising revenue. The New York Times will offer The Athletic as an independent subscription — and will ultimately make it a part of a New York Times package.
“The future growth of The Athletic and of the combined New York Times and The Athletic — and the broader bundle and portfolio of products — depends on things that we have literally spent the last half decade, maybe longer, learning how to do,” Ms. Levien said in an interview, citing The Times’s experience with marketing and advertising, among other things.
When asked about potential layoffs at The Athletic, she said, “at this point, that’s not our plan.”
Last summer, there was speculation that gambling platforms like FanDuel and DraftKings might acquire The Athletic. Ms Levien said gambling could be a business opportunity for the company.
“We did not buy The Athletic to build a giant betting platform, but I don’t rule out that there will be ways that we work with gambling companies over time,” she said.
The Times’s acquisition of The Athletic is expected to close by April 1. For The Times, the addition will bring an infusion of paying readers. Ms. Levien has consistently emphasized the importance of adding digital subscribers since taking charge of the business in 2020. At the end of the third quarter of 2021, the Times Company had reached 8.4 million total subscriptions.