Hot on the heels of Vox Media’s acquisition of Group Nine, we could be near another high-profile digital media merger. Puck reported today that The New York Times Co. had entered exclusive talks to buy The Athletic. This is the business equivalent of a couple getting engaged after breaking up: The Times and the digital sports news subscription service ended similar discussions in mid-June after disagreeing on price, as we reported at the time. But this time the wedding might just happen.
For one thing, The Athletic needs a deal. It has a hefty 600-person reporting staff, which is ideal for covering sports as comprehensively as it does, but definitely weighs on the bottom line. Indeed, The Athletic burned through nearly $100 million in cash between 2019 and 2020, as we reported in October. At that time, we reported the outlet had enough cash to cover its needs for another eight months. We also said the cash burn was expected to come down a lot this year. Still, the pressure is likely on.