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New York Times to buy sports news site The Athletic

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The New York Times will acquire sports news website The Athletic, the companies announced Thursday, the latest move by the iconic US newspaper in its diversification drive.

“Acquiring The Athletic puts us in a position to be a global leader in sports journalism and offer English speakers around the world another reason to turn to the Times Company to meet their daily news and life needs,” New York Times chief Meredith Kopit Levien said in a statement.

The newspaper company will pay $550 million for The Athletic, which has become a leader in sports coverage over the past six years as it took advantage of a tough environment for local media.

The transaction — first reported by online technology publication The Information — is expected to be finalized in the first quarter.

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Levien said the addition will help the Times achieve its goal of more than 10 million subscribers, from eight million currently.

Founded in January 2016 by Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann, The Athletic had about 1.2 million subscribers at the end of 2021, according to the statement.

It has grown at a rapid pace, launching a UK version in 2019 and partnering with Australian television group Optus Sport last year.

It also has produced numerous podcasts, including “The Lead,” its most popular. But media reports say it has struggled to reach profitability and was considering a change in strategy.

The New York Times in recent years has used targeted acquisitions to diversify its audience by publishing everything from recipes to podcasts.

In 2016, it bought product-testing and recommendation site Wirecutter, and in June 2020 acquired Serial Productions, the studio behind the hit podcast of the same name.

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According to Crunchbase, The Athletic has raised a total of $139.5 million from investors since its inception, and was valued at between $500 million and $1 billion when it last raised funds in January 2020.

The Athletic will become an independent subsidiary of The New York Times, and the founders will stay on as co-presidents, with Mather also serving as general manager and Hansmann as its chief operating officer, the statement said.

They called the deal a “thrilling milestone” in their goal “to bring fans closer to the teams, players and leagues they love through deep, immersive journalism and storytelling.”

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