Athletic co-founder Alex Mather praised Axios last summer

Athletic co-founders Adam Hansmann and Alex Mather

Source: The Athletic

Digital sports publication The Athletic and short news service Axios are considering a merger as part of a larger plan to break up digital media companies, according to people familiar with the case.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the news on Friday. The talks are “extremely early,” said one of the people.

Athletic co-founders Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann spoke to CNBC last year after crossing the 1 million subscriber mark. At the time, Mather praised Axios as a company where he looked at innovations he could bring to The Athletic.

“We’re looking at a company like Axios – what are they doing really well?” Said Mather in the interview.

“How can we take what they do and apply it to sports? If you’re a casual fan of politics, they simplify the experience. They give me the things I need and very little that I don’t. You don’t just say ‘oh put it in bullets!’ It cuts through the clutter to get to what someone needs to know versus what depth is. That’s how we look at our company. Maybe you’re a diehard fan and you read every article, or you’re a regular fan. How do we make it informal? fan happy? How do we summarize the day in the NBA each day so that if you’re a casual fan, you can join us? “

The Wall Street Journal noted that the two companies would continue to operate separately as a condition of early merger talks. Still, Mather’s comments provide a window into the kind of stylistic and editorial choices The Athletic makes possible when Axios reporters and editors are asked for help.

A spokeswoman for The Athletic declined to comment on the merger talks, adding, “Axios has built a fantastic company and we have had many talks over the years.”

Likewise, Jim VandeHei, CEO of Axios, noted that the companies have “literally spent years talking about our shared passion for premium content companies.” Axios also declined to comment on merger talks.

Both Axios and The Athletic have venture capitalists who can earn investments in digital media companies when they go public through a dedicated investment vehicle. Group Nine has publicly expressed a desire to roll up digital media companies through a SPAC. Buzzfeed has held talks with 890 Fifth Avenue, an SPAC focused on media and telecom, according to Bloomberg. Other companies, including Bustle, Vox and Vice, have also talked about merging and going public through an SPAC, CNBC reported earlier this year.

WATCH: Liberty Media Forms SPAC With Plans To List On Nasdaq.