Founded in 2016, The Athletic has around 1.2m global subscribers as of December, covering more than 200 clubs and teams in the US, UK and around the world.
Its 2019 UK launch saw each Premier League club assigned a dedicated correspondent, with a number of established football writers poached from leading UK media outlets.
Its last funding round, in 2020, valued the site at $500m. Last year it reported operating losses of around $55m, on revenue of $65m.
New York Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said: "Acquiring The Athletic puts us in a position to be a global leader in sports journalism."
The company finished the 2021 third quarter with at least 8 million paid subscribers across both its digital and print formats and has a goal to reach 10 million subscribers by 2025.
Levien said: “We are now in pursuit of a goal meaningfully larger than 10 million subscriptions and believe The Athletic will enable us to expand our addressable market of potential subscribers.”
In an investor call, Levien added: “Alongside our core news report, New York Times Cooking, New York Times Games, Wirecutter and Audm, we’ll have a more robust offering to engage the millions of subscribers we already have and convert many more new ones among our 100m-plus registered users.”
Despite The Athletic having a strong subscriber base it has been making losses, but Levien said: “We currently forecast a slight improvement in operating losses in 2022, as we plan to make additional investments that will mostly offset revenue growth.”
She believes the New York Times with its experience in digital subscriptions can guide The Athletic towards profitability. “We are buying a business whose next phase of growth depends on things we know how to do,” she told investors.
The Athletic will operate separately from the company, with its founders Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann staying on after the acquisition.
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