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The Athletic Exploring Deal With New York Times

Axios and The Athletic were reportedly in merger talks as recently as March.

Russ Heltman

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A deal that would have merged Axios and The Athletic is no longer on the table. The Wall Street Journal reported that the news publisher and sports content company are “no longer in merger talks,” but The Athletic still wants to expand its business.

The two sides were reportedly working on a merger deal back in March, but now The Athletic has turned its sights to the New York Times. The newspaper is facing a new era after years of growth with former President Donald Trump in office. The Times signed up 167,000 new subscribers this month, marking the site’s slowest growth since the second quarter of 2019. 

“As a general matter of policy, we do not comment on rumors about potential acquisitions or divestitures,” A New York Times spokeswoman said to The Hill

The Athletic has over a million paid subscribers signed up for their $7.99 a month content offerings, but their financials are a bit of a mystery. Although a source disclosed to The Wall Street Journal that The Athletic generated $80 million in revenue last year. According to PitchBook, the company’s valuation stood at $475 million during its most recent funding round in January 2020.

The company laid off 46 people last June during the height of the pandemic but has appeared to rebound well as sports returned across the world. Co-Founder Alex Mather discussed the company’s growth with CNBC last September and made a point to mention the New York Times.

“Our investors have been and continue to be incredibly patient,” Mather said. “We just don’t think about exit, and we don’t know the upside here. There are very few companies doing what we’re doing. The New York Times is the tip of the spear, and they’re growing faster than ever. We don’t know what our ceiling is. When we feel like we know what our ceiling is, then it’s time for Adam and I to have a chat. But we have not come close to having a chat.”

UPDATE: According to Axios, the New York Times has begun vetting The Athletic. The paper has been reaching out to former Athletic staffers for information about the company’s business and culture.

The Athletic is not profitable at this time. The Wall Street Journal reports that it carries a staff of 600 full-time employees. What the Times would need to see happen with revenues and profits in order to close a deal remains to be seen.

Sports Online

NASCAR Driver Denny Hamlin Launching Podcast with Dale Earnhardt Jr & Dirty Mo Media

“New episodes will be published each Monday during the NASCAR season with previews and reviews of races, with the goal of inviting guests and interacting with fans playing a future role in the series.”

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Dirty Mo Media has announced a podcast deal with NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin will host Actions Detrimental with Denny Hamlin on a weekly basis during the NASCAR season. The Actions Detrimental branding is verbiage used by NASCAR for fines assessed to drivers for their disparaging comments about the sport. Known as one of NASCAR’s more outspoken drivers, Hamlin has been fined several times under the “actions detrimental to stock car racing” statutes.

New episodes will be published each Monday during the NASCAR season with previews and reviews of races, with the goal of inviting guests and interacting with fans playing a future role in the series.

Denny Hamlin jokingly thanked Dirty Mo Media for the “opportunity and the fat check” the company wrote for him to host the podcast in a Twitter announcement.

The 42-year-old Hamlin has won 48 races during his 18-year NASCAR Cup Series career. In addition to serving as a driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, he co-owns 23XI Racing with basketball legend Michael Jordan.

The podcast is the latest in an expansion of content produced by the Mooresville, North Carolina-based digital outlet. After beginning with The Dale Jr. Download, the company has grown to include other podcasts like Door, Bumper, Clear, and Speed Street, as well as video projects like The Next Level.

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Sports Online

Barstool Sports CEO: Golf Likely Next Step For Company’s Live Broadcasts

“I think we‘ll start with the biggest sports that we know and love.”

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Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini recently did a wide-ranging interview with AdAge.com about the future of the digital sports outlet’s television aspirations, and she said sports they’re familiar with will take priority.

“”We want sports that appeal to a broad audience. We’re kind of tickled to be able to broadcast things in the first place. So I think we‘ll start with the biggest sports that we know and love, whether it’s basketball and football,” Nardini said. “You could definitely see that extended to golf, that would probably be the next place that we’ll play.”

The questions about Barstool’s future aspirations come after the company’s successful first broadcast of the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl. Barstool says the broadcast received nearly 1 million views, peaking at 130,000 concurrent viewers. The outlet also broadcasted the Barstool Sports Invitational that featured Akron, Mississippi State, Toledo, and UAB in November.

Nardini added that the company is interested live televised sports for a few reasons.

“We’re owned by a sports betting company and the more we think about building our sports platform, there’s obviously a huge opportunity for us to convey a whole bunch of offerings to our audience, but certainly betting will be one of them…I think that live sports on television is the last man standing where it’s all anyone tunes in for.”

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Sports Online

Fanatics to Open First Sportsbook Inside FedEx Field

“The location at the home of the Washington Commanders will make it the first sportsbook to open inside an NFL stadium.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Sports licensing giant Fanatics will soon be launching its long-anticipated sportsbook.

The company will open up a physical sportsbook location in Maryland at FedEx Field on January 20. Fanatics has also been granted a license to operate in Massachusetts, tethered to Plainridge Park Casino.

The location at the home of the Washington Commanders will make it the first sportsbook to open inside an NFL stadium. Bettors in the DMV will now be able to place wagers at all their local teams’ venues, as William Hill has an on-site location at Capital One Arena – home of the Capitals and Wizards – and BetMGM has a space at Nationals Park in D.C.

Despite having a physical location at FedEx Field, bettors in Maryland will not be able to place mobile wagers through a Fanatics Sportsbook app.

According to Front Office Sports, Fanatics hopes to have the sportsbook up and running in some fashion in all states where legal by September.

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