The Athletic is a subscription-based sports website that provides ad-free national and local coverage in 47 North American cities as well as the United Kingdom. The Athletic also covers national stories from top professional and college sports, National Hockey League, mixed martial arts, Major League Soccer and association football. The Athletic's coverage focuses on a mix of long-form journalism, original reporting, and in-depth analysis. Its business model is predicated on dis-aggregating the sports section of local newspapers and reaching non-local fans not reached by a local newspaper.
The Athletic was founded by Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann, former coworkers at subscription-based fitness company Strava, with the mission of producing "smarter coverage for die-hard fans." The company was built as an alternative to the struggling ad-supported models. The Athletic relies on subscription revenue, not advertising revenue, to support the business. Mather and Hansmann believed sports fans would be willing to pay for good reporting and writing, a clean app and no ads. At the time, a few newspapers were trying out paywalls, but the common industry view was that information on the internet needed to be free.
As part of Y Combinator's summer 2016 batch, the site originally launched in Chicago in January 2016, with Jon Greenberg serving as the founding editor, along with Sahadev Sharma and Scott Powers. Greenberg and Powers previously worked at ESPN Chicago, while Sharma left Baseball Prospectus' Cubs vertical to join the website.