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ValueAct calls for The New York Times to sell more bundles

Kerry Flynn
Aug 12, 2022
Illustration of a New York Times print newspaper with The Athletic logo on the front page
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Activist shareholder ValueAct is pushing the New York Times to sell more subscriber bundles. And, it turns out, that's what the media company has been prioritizing.

Why it matters: The fact that ValueAct's thesis is in line with what the company is already doing suggests that this is more of a cooperative engagement than a precursor to a proxy fight.

Driving the news: Per Bloomberg, ValueAct's letter to shareholders about NYT seems to call for a more aggressive push of its bundle offerings.

  • "Our research suggests that most current readers and subscribers are interested in the bundle and would pay a large premium for it but are not aware the offering even exists," the letter said.
  • The demand comes amid a renewed focus on bundling in other parts of the media business, particularly entertainment.

State of play: NYT has been focused on strengthening its bundle through its recent acquisition of The Athletic, the digital sports publisher.

  • NYT chose to add The Athletic to its bundle free of charge, intended as a way to entice new subscribers.
  • When asked in June if the company was eyeing other subscription offerings, CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said sports was "a clear missing piece" in its bundle offering, but "we don't feel like there's a gaping hole in the portfolio at this point."

Yes, but: NYT only offers minimal bundle options.

  • People can subscribe to basic digital access for news or to individual non-news products like Cooking or Games. Or, they can get all of the above by paying for all access. Print subscribers also get all access.
  • But there's no option to bundle just The Athletic and Wirecutter, for example.

What NYT is saying: "As we do with other shareholders, members of our management team have had conversations with ValueAct to hear their views and share ours," Danielle Rhoades Ha, SVP of external communications, said in a statement to Axios.

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