The Athletic rolled out an offer today for new subscribers to get the service for free for 90 days. It's an interesting strategy from the site to garner engagement during a stretch that will almost certainly be largely devoid of live sports.
The catch is that you have to enter in payment information, and if you do not cancel before the end of the free trial you will be billed the full-year rate of $59.99; this effectively means that the first year of The Athletic is about $45, which is a bit more than their typical teaser rate where the first year is $25-30. That being said, this model doesn't require the upfront outlay like their normal teaser rate does; both models require setting a calendar alert if you think The Athletic is not worth their full cost.
Since The Athletic was founded over four years ago, there have been industry whispers wondering if they're going to make it. From the outside, this would seem to be a very interesting test. With this special they are relinquishing three months of any cashflow from new subscribers, though it's also a solid bet many of those new people will either fall in love with the product or just forget to cancel it.
The Athletic is well capitalized, having just announced in January that they raised $50 million more in cash to bring the company to a $500 million valuation. At the time, the company said it expects to become profitable in 2020. Nevertheless, they're now in a vortex where the activities they cover are on pause and disposable income will be scarce for many around the globe for the foreseeable future.
Athletic co-founders Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann have projected strength and at times even an air of invincibility in the wake of skeptics for years. They've achieved a level of scale and relevance no one could have reasonably thought was possible. Nevertheless, this year could pose some enormous challenges for their business -- some of their cash warchest could have to be used for fortification as opposed to expansion, and it may not be as easy for them to access capital markets in the near future.