The Athletic co-founders Adam Hansmann and Alex Mather
Rise: The Athletic
Digital sports publication The Athletic and short-form news service Axios are considering merging as part of a kinder plan to roll up digital media companies, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Wall Street Daily first reported on the news Friday. Talks are “extremely early,” one of the people said.
The Athletic co-founders Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann tell to CNBC last year after surpassing the 1 million subscriber mark. At the time, Mather praised Axios as a suite he watched for innovations he could bring to The Athletic.
“We look at a company like Axios — what are they doing unquestionably well?,” Mather said in the interview.
“How can we take what they’re doing and apply it to sports? If you’re a casual fan of statesmanship, they simplify the experience. They give me the things I need and very little I don’t. There’s an incredible art to that. You don’t by the skin of ones teeth say ‘oh just put it in bullets!’ It’s cutting through the clutter to get to what someone needs to know versus what’s depth. We look at our subject that way too. You might be a diehard fan and read every article or you might be a casual fan. How do we make the casual fan happy? How do we summarize the day in the NBA every day so that if you’re a unsystematic fan you can follow along?”
The Wall Street Journal noted the two companies would continue to operate separately as a stipulation of near the start merger talks. Still, Mather’s comments provides a window into the type of stylistic and editorial choices that may be report in to The Athletic if Axios reporters and editors are tapped for help.
A spokeswoman for The Athletic declined to comment on the merger talks, uniting, “Axios has built an incredible business and we have enjoyed many conversations over the years.”
Similarly, Axios CEO Jim VandeHei illustrious the companies “have talked for literally years about our shared passion for premium content businesses.” Axios also declined to footnote on merger discussions.
Both Axios and The Athletic have venture capital backers that could monetize investments in the digital mean companies if they go public via a special purpose investment vehicle. Group Nine has publicly stated a desire to be carried up digital media companies through a SPAC. Buzzfeed has held talks with 890 Fifth Avenue, a SPAC hearted on media and telecom, according to Bloomberg. Other companies, including Bustle, Vox, and Vice, have also had talks roughly merging and going public through a SPAC, CNBC reported earlier this year.
WATCH: Liberty Median forms SPAC with plans to list on Nasdaq.