Is IAC, Owner of Tinder and Match, Ready to Dump Dating Sites?

Investors worry as free, niche services flood marketplace

Despite pressure from investors to sell off the company's dating sites and hookup apps, executives at IAC’s The Match Group remain committed to the market, reports The New York Times.

Investors' concerns about holding onto Match.com, Tinder and similar properties include competitors that offer free access, difficulty generating revenue from smartphone users, and increasing competition from niche services, reports the Times.

The media conglomerate IAC has worked for years to dominate online dating. Company chairman Barry Diller launched the strategy in 1999 with the purchase of Match.com. During Diller's second stint at the helm, he has overseen the acquisition of OkCupid, Meetic, Chemistry.com and smaller sites, along with a recent increase in majority ownership of Tinder.

IAC claimed 3.4 million subscribers across all of its relationship sites and apps at the end of its most recent fiscal year. And OkCupid and Tinder pulled in a combined 58 percent of top dating-site downloads from Apple's App Store in 2013.

Still, months of speculation regarding a sale have followed IAC’s December 2013 decision to combine all of its dating properties into the autonomous The Match Group. The Wall Street Journal argued in August that the digital media conglomerate could realize the most value for its shareholders by selling off.

The Match Group CEO Sam Yagan, however, maintains that no such plan is in the works. He even seemed to hint in his interview with The New York Times that growth is imminent. "We are not just the acquirer of choice," he said. "We are the only acquirer."

In July, The Match Group chairman Gregory Blatt announced that ads would start appearing within the free-to-use Tinder app. The move was projected to generate tens of millions of dollars despite analysts’ concerns. Advertising has worked less well than premium services like date coaching for competitors such as eHarmony, according to the newspaper.

Additionally, The Match Group's general dating services face competition from specialty sites for everyone from Jewish singles to Ayn Rand fans.

Yagan says services can overlap.

"It is not a winner-take-all dynamic," he told the Times. "There is a lot of concurrent usage. Unlike a car, the majority of online daters use multiple products, so you want to have a portfolio—a multibranded approach."