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The Athletic Co-Founders Explain Selling to The New York Times

“The New York Times won us over. They won us over in their mission, in how we fit into that mission, and how important we are to their mission.”

Jordan Bondurant

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The sports journalism world began 2022 with a bit of a shock when news broke of the acquisition of The Athletic by the New York Times.

The Athletic grew to prominence not only by hiring some of the most well-known reporters in the industry, but by also hosting content on a website free of advertising.

But eventually it seemed like being ad-free, combined with slowing subscription growth, was a hindrance in the company being profitable. Financial reports from the past several years indicate that The Athletic operated at a loss.

Did that serve as the primary reason for co-founders Adam Hansmann and Alex Mather to sell? In an interview with CNBC’s Alex Sherman, Mather said it came down to how the Times presented a vision for The Athletic’s future.

“For us, the simple version of ‘why sell?’ is: The New York Times won us over,” he said. “They won us over in their mission, in how we fit into that mission, and how important we are to their mission, and how they can really supercharge what we’re doing. And we fell in love with the idea, and our board was supportive.”

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The deal took some time to complete and at one point, Hansmann and Mather walked away from negotiations with both Axios and the Times. But towards the end of 2021, Mather said an opportunity for The Athletic to be a part of the portfolio of journalism the Times offers to readers made the most sense.

“Things change quite quickly,” he said. “You know, we took a year and a half from that moment and really, you know, evaluated all of our options and in the end felt like The New York Times was the best home for the company.”

The understanding at this point is that The Athletic will continue to operate as a standalone product under the Times umbrella, and then it will be offered in subscription bundles for the paper. Mather added being a marquee puzzle piece in providing worldwide sports coverage will be supremely appealing to subscribers.

“If you think about the essential news bundle in the world, you add in what The New York Times does in world news, politics, science, I can go on forever,” he said. “And then you think about what we do for the sports fans who live anywhere in the world. That is absolutely an essential bundle.”

Sports Online

Mike Francesa: George Steinbrenner’s Idea to Put Mike and The Mad Dog On YES Network

“It was George’s idea. So give him credit for it. He wanted Mike and The Mad Dog as part of the CBS Radio contract, and we were.”

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Mike and The Mad Dog is often cited as one of, if not the, best sports radio shows of all time. The show saw an expanded reach with its partnership with the YES Network beginning in 2002. During his podcast Tuesday, Mike Francesa gave all the credit to the simulcast hitting the air on YES Network to the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

“It was George Steinbrenner that came up with the idea of Mike and The Mad Dog being on the YES Network. No one else,” Francesa said.

“They came to us when they were negotiating a new radio deal with him and they said ‘Hey, we need a quick answer on this. Would you guys want to be on the YES Network every day, simulcasting? You know what Imus is doing with MSNBC? We wanna do it with you guys, but we need a very quick answer’.”

Francesa said the show airing on YES Network was a sticking point for the Yankees in negotiations with CBS Radio to continue airing the franchise’s broadcasts.

“Our first deal with them were not for a lot of money. Our later deals with them were for a very significant amount of money. But it was George’s idea. So give him credit for it. He wanted Mike and The Mad Dog as part of the CBS Radio contract, and we were. Our joining the YES Network was part of the CBS Radio contract.”

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Sports Online

Dave Portnoy Reveals Back-And-Forth With New York Times Reporter Who Claimed He ‘Did Not Provide Answers’

“You waited till (sic) your hit piece was done and now you just need to say you gave me a fair chance to speak even though you have no interest in the truth and your article is already written”.

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A story from The New York Times centered around “aging casino company” — Penn National Gaming — and its relationship with “degenerate gambler” — Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy — caught the eye of the face of the online outlet after the claim that he “didn’t provide answers”.

In the story, Steel claims “Penn and Barstool executives did not respond to repeated messages. Mr. Portnoy did not provide answers.” Portnoy brought the receipts to Twitter with a video of all of the correspondence he had with Times writer Emily Steel.

The alleged conversation takes place sporadically from May through November, with Portnoy offering to meet face-to-face with Steel for an interview that is mutually audio and video recorded, which Steel declines. She offered to meet Portnoy in New York for an audio recorded interview, which he declined, saying the interview needed to take place in Miami, because “I’m not running around to accommodate you at the 11th hour.”

He added “You waited till (sic) your hit piece was done and now you just need to say you gave me a fair chance to speak even though you have no interest in the truth and your article is already written”.

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Sports Online

Kareem Daniel Leaving Disney After Bob Iger Reassumes Role as Company CEO

“This is a time of enormous change and challenges in our industry, and our work will also focus on creating a more efficient and cost-effective structure.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Bob Iger is back as the CEO of Disney, and one of the first moves he made was to announce a company restructure. Part of that restructure includes the departure of Kareem Daniel, the chair of Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution (DMED).

DMED was formed under now-previous CEO Bob Chapek. The division manages Disney’s streaming services which includes ESPN+.

Daniel was considered one of those closest to Chapek. Iger announced Daniel’s departure in a memo to employees at DMED.

“It is my intention to restructure things in a way that honors and respects creativity as the heart and soul of who we are,” Iger said in the memo. “As you know, this is a time of enormous change and challenges in our industry, and our work will also focus on creating a more efficient and cost-effective structure.”

ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro will join other company leaders in coming up with a new company structure that Iger hopes “puts more decision-making back in the hands of our creative teams and rationalizes costs.”

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