International players anthem: The Athletic’s plan to dominate sports media involves expanding overseas

The Athletic sports site has 500,000 subscribers, with big plans to expand internationally, CEO Alex Mather says.


December 3, 2019

Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Since launching in 2016, The Athletic has earned ~$100m in funding and attracted more than 500k subscribers. But how can the site, which has touted itself as the home for hardcore sports fans, do something new for the masses that ESPN and other legacy media haven’t?

Co-founder and CEO Alex Mather says by going where other American companies have neglected: overseas. So far the strategy has involved hiring journalists to cover European soccer. 

But the international market is ripe for more disruption

The London-based streaming service DAZN has 8m subscribers, with 90% based outside of the US. ESPN’s streaming service ESPN+ has 3.5m subscribers.

“Premier league fans are in every country on earth,” Mather told The Hustle on Monday, following remarks he made during Hustle Con. “There are NBA fans in every country on the earth. So how do we find them and how do we bring them something premium?”

More highlights from Hustle Con… 

Family and business: When Kat Schneider, the founder of the vitamin company Ritual, met an investor while she was 4 months pregnant, she recalled him telling her to choose between starting a business or starting a family. “And in my mind, I was like ‘f-you. I’m going to do both,’” she says. “And I did.”

Want to be an entrepreneur? Get an engineering degree, not a business degree. “Science is really affecting every one of our industries,” says Michele Romanow, a serial entrepreneur and cast member of the CBC’s Dragons’ Den.

All right, all right, all right… now sleep: Calm CEO Michael Acton Smith says the top narrator for his popular sleep app is Matthew McConaughey. “The only thing the wife wants to do in bed these days is listen to Matthew.”

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