The Athletic is a subscription-based sports website that provides ad-free national and local coverage in 47 North American cities as well as the United Kingdom.
Coverage focuses on a mix of long-form journalism, original reporting, and in-depth analysis. Its business model is predicated on dis-aggregating the sports section of local newspapers and reaching non-local fans not reached by a local newspaper.1
The Athletic was founded in 2016 by Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann, former coworkers at subscription-based fitness company Strava, with the mission of producing “smarter coverage for die-hard fans.” The company was built as an alternative to the struggling ad-supported models and relies on subscription revenue, not advertising revenue, to support the business.
As part of Y Combinator’s summer 2016 batch, the site originally launched in Chicago in January 2016, with Jon Greenberg serving as the founding editor, along with Sahadev Sharma (Cubs) and Scott Powers (Blackhawks). Greenberg and Powers previously worked at ESPN Chicago, while Sharma left Baseball Prospectus’ Cubs vertical to join the website.
The Athletic has raised funding over a series of rounds. The first major funding was provided by Courtside Ventures, which provided $2.3 million in seed funding in January 2017. In March 2018, the company announced a $20 million third round of funding led by Evolution Media. The Athletic raised another $40 million in a Series C funding round in October 2018, co-led by Founders Fund and Bedrock Capital. Actor Matthew McConaughey added to his growing business portfolio by contributing to a $50 million financing round, through Plus Capital, in January, 2020.2