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USA Today Launches Sports+ In Time for 2021 NFL Season

  • Nadine Ghiran - SUBTA
  • Sep 8, 2021
  • 4 minute read

USA Today, the flagship media outlet of Gannett, launched a new premium subscription service, USA Today Sports+ (Sports+), on Labor Day. 

The launch was strategically aligned with the start of the 2021 NFL season to ensure that subscribers are given exclusive access to content and features highlighting the teams and players, according to Alicia DelGallo, Managing Editor of USA Today Sports+.

“Gannett is on a journey to transform the business to a subscription-led company with a goal of reaching 10 million digital subscribers by end of 2025,” DelGallo told SUBTA.

Photo Credit: USA Today

Read on to learn more about how USA Today’s Sports+ platform plans to cater to rising trends in the industry.

USA Today Sports+ Starts in Fan-Filled Cities

Gannett reaches more than 53 million sports fans and is well-positioned to leverage USA Today’s network of 500+ sports journalists, according to DelGallo. 

“USA Today Sports+ allows us to expand our subscription offerings for sports audiences with an all-new premium digital sports subscription experience,” DelGallo told SUBTA.

The subscription is available in seven markets — Arizona, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, and Wisconsin — where there are strong NFL sports fan bases and dedicated local sports editors, according to DelGallo.

Sports+ has two pricing tiers

  • Monthly Premium Access: 3-month free trial, then $2.99/month for 12 months
  • Annual Premium Access: 3-month free trial, then $29.99/year for 12 months

“Our subscription strategy enables consumers to access more of the premium and exclusive content they want,” DelGallo told SUBTA. 

Sports+ is set to be an engaging format for sports fans to consume real-time news and insider analysis reported from over 300 local and national publications across USA Today’s network. The platform displays a diverse portfolio of features that enable sports fans to follow their teams through exclusive content.

Cutting-Edge Features to Compete with Top Streaming Platforms

Other offerings include interactive features like SMS texting and live group chats with Sports+ journalists and USA Today writers. Subscribers also get exclusive access to podcasts, such as the upcoming “It’s a Football Podcast!” — which was released on Wednesday, Sept. 8.

Additionally, Sports+ is leveraging a unique augmented-reality component, where users can witness Tennessee Titans super fan, Yolanda Dixon, and Indianapolis Colts super fan, Rick Stevens, rave about their passion for football. “These sensory experiences immerse subscribers in storytelling through multi-surface tracking, geolocation support, and volumetric video support,” says the press release.

Furthermore, Gannett recently signed a strategic betting agreement with Tipico, the leading online-sports-betting platform in Germany. “Tipico is the exclusive sports-betting provider for Gannett with integration across the new Sports+ app with fast real-time scores and updated gaming odds for subscribers,” DelGallo said.

USA Today is also hiring top-tier journalists – including NFL insiders – to ensure that Sports+ subscribers are receiving a fully immersive experience, according to the press release.

These reporters and producers will curate behind-the-scenes content for users to truly enjoy their favorite sports teams.

The Athletic, a subscription-based site with similar offerings that launched in 2016, has seen great success with this business model. While it is still relatively small in comparison to publications like ESPN+ and The New York Times, it gained 1 million digital subscribers last year, said Alex Mather, Co-Founder of The Athletic, in an interview with CNBC.

Sports+ intends to reach 10 million subscribers in less time (four years) than The Athletic reached 1 million (five years). With consumers facing many entertainment options and relying heavily on the media, it’s more important than ever to find a business niche and differentiate from the competition.

Prioritizing Subscriptions for a Growing Business

One of Gannett’s five operating priorities for 2021 was to accelerate digital subscriber growth. 

Per its Q2 2021 report, Gannett announced a 41% year-over-year increase in digital-only subscriptions (a total of 1.4 million subscribers). In addition, the company reached $259.3 million in total digital revenue. 

USA Today alone reached an average of 105 million monthly unique visitors in 2020. 

Gannett’s overall subscriber growth wouldn’t have been possible without paying attention to its consumers’ trends.

“Our strategic agreement with Tipico, our incredible sports journalism and our USA TODAY Network footprint will ensure Sports+ engages our existing subscriber base, attracts new audiences as we provide exclusive content, experiences and product offerings so fans can literally fan harder,” says Michael Reed, Gannett Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in the press release.

USA Today is dedicating itself to creating a unique, immersive experience around sports fandom to attract more subscribers and attain Gannett’s goals. As of April of 2021, there are only six media companies with more than 1 million subscribers. Could Gannett become the seventh?

Key Takeaways:

  • USA Today launched USA Today Sports+, a premium digital subscription service, to reach football fans during the 2021 NFL season. 
  • The subscription is available in seven core markets — Arizona, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
  • “Sports+ enables subscribers to curate and customize their local sports experience,” stated Gannett’s leadership in a press release.
  • Gannett seeks to attract 10 million subscribers by 2025.

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