Type of site
|Available in||English, French (Montreal only)|
|Headquarters|| San Francisco|
|Owner||The Athletic Media Company|
|Created by||Alex Mather|
The Athletic is a subscription-based sports website covering professional and college teams in over 20 other North American cities. The site also covers national stories in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer through a mix of long-form journalism, original reporting, and podcasts. Their business model is predicated on dis-aggregating the sports section of local newspapers and reaching non-local fans that are not reached by a local newspaper.
The Athletic was founded 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. The Athletic relies on subscriptions, not advertising revenue, to support the business.
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 company participated in Y Combinator during the summer of 2016.
In October 2016, The Athletic expanded to a second city, Toronto, to focus on Maple Leafs, Raptors, and Blue Jays coverage. The Athletic hired James Mirtle as editor-in-chief for Toronto. Mirtle spent over a decade as a sportswriter at The Globe and Mail before joining The Athletic. A third city, Cleveland, launched in March 2017, with Jason Lloyd as editor-in-chief. The Athletic continued city expansion to Detroit in June 2017. In August, the site hired Ken Rosenthal as a senior baseball writer, shortly after Fox Sports eliminated its entire writing staff.
The first major funding was provided by Courtside Ventures, which provided $2.3 million in seed funding. In July 2017, the company raised another $5.8 million in funding and announced their expansion into the Philadelphia and San Francisco-area sports markets. The Athletic expanded into Minnesota and the rest of Canada in September 2017. In February 2018, The Athletic announced further expansion into three new cities—New York, Dallas, and Cincinnati—and launched baseball-only coverage in Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Arizona, and Kansas City.
In March 2018, the company announced a $20 million third round of funding led by Evolution Media. Mather reported that this money would be invested into expanding coverage to new cities and increasing the number of writers from the current staff of 120. That same month, the site announced full coverage in Denver and Boston starting in April. In Denver, The Athletic hired several reporters from The Denver Post. In Boston, the initial staff consisted of beat writers previously employed at the Boston Globe, Boston Herald and the Springfield Republican's web portal MassLive. Adding to college football coverage, The Athletic added dedicated beat writers for major programs like Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. In May, the site announced coverage of both domestic and international soccer. In June 2018, The Athletic increased coverage in Los Angeles and expanded into Buffalo, New York by hiring several reporters who had been bought out from The Buffalo News the same month.