The Athletic has already grown to focus on nearly 50 local markets, and it’s also been an international operation since very early in its existence, with Toronto being the second city featured after Chicago.
Now, they’ll be going even further for their next big expansion, launching a United Kingdom group focused initially on Premier League soccer this August. That’s according to Lucinda Southern at Digiday, who has the details here:
Sports subscription publisher The Athletic has pinpointed the U.K. for its first overseas hub. The direct-to-consumer media company plans to hire a U.K. team of between 50 and 55, mostly writers, ahead of a mid-August launch.
The U.K. editorial team will focus initially on football, particularly Premier League teams, but will expand to cover more sports in time. Similar to its hyper-local model in the U.S. and Canada, where it covers 50 different regions, writers will be located beyond London.
“This is not an extension of the U.S.; this is about how to empower our writers for a U.K. audience,” said Akhil Nambiar, chief of staff at The Athletic.
It’s a move that makes sense, especially as a way to provide consistent and more familiar coverage to American fans of English soccer, of which there are many. Attempting to wade through the minefield of British tabloids has its charms, but if you appreciate how The Athletic covers teams, and especially if you’re a fan of one specific club, this might be worth a subscription for you.
That’s what The Athletic is banking on, anyway:
According to Nambiar, there’s already a small paying U.K. cohort plus a U.S. appetite for more local football content, making the U.K. a natural next step. In the last six months, the most-read article has been this piece on Italian football club Reggiana Audace, currently in Italy’s fourth league, which was read by over 100,000 people in a week.
Subscribers last year were 100,000, now “well over” but still in the low hundreds of thousands, according to Patterson. The Athletic said that 89% of its subscriber base interacts with its app each week. Also, its annual retention rate is an impressive 90%.
It’s clearly a big step for The Athletic, featuring plenty of new hurdles. As the Digiday piece notes, there’s clearly a lot of British competition in the media space, and they’re essentially trying to build the brand all over again. But if The Athletic can start to add UK subscribers in addition to serving content to a new segment of American consumers, it could be a very positive move.