The fantasy sports industry is riding a wave of growth, and industry experts at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association’s 2015 Winter Conference on Jan. 15 and 16 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas see a tsunami coming.
Fueled by the rapid growth of daily fantasy games, industry projections show daily fantasy sports becoming a $17 billion industry by 2020, a four-fold increase over today’s level.
That was reflected in the record number of new members, attendees and attention at the 2015 Winter Conference.
“This is by far our biggest turnout, ” said FSTA president Paul Charchian during the opening of the Winter Conference presentations on Jan. 16. “The FSTA has 230 members companies, and that’s 100 more than a year ago, and there are 175 companies represented here in the room. We have close to 400 attendees. ” By comparison, the 2014 Summer Conference in San Francisco has just under 300 attendees.
That growth has brought with it more excitement in the industry, as well as more attention to fantasy sports. The industry is facing challenges from state legislatures that want to include fantasy games in gambling laws in Washington, Iowa and Arizona. Charchian also warned about companies that are not FSTA members presenting themselves as fantasy games similar to those that have already signed the association’s Code of Conduct.
“We have to remain hyper-vigilant, ” Charchian told the packed room at the conference.
In the discussion on legal issues facing fantasy sports, Tom Walls, principal at Dentons US LLC reminded attendees that while the current Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIEGA) passed by Congress in 2006 exempts fantasy sports from the gambling law because it is as a game of skill, state legislators may be inclined to take a look fantasy sports as a new source of revenue.
“The UIEGA carveout exempts fantasy sports from internet gaming regulations. It is our crown jewel, ” Walls said. “We have to protect it at all costs. “
Walls cited a number of areas where FSTA members should help reinforce the story about fantasy sports as a skill game and help protect the industry:
· Make good choices, and be careful with the language. “Who is listening when you speak? ” Walls asked.
· Build relationships with policy makers.
· Educate policy makers.
· Use strategic communications.
· Prepare to mobilize grass roots.
· Build and organize our coalition
· Coordinate nationally.
Daily fantasy sports (DFS) are responsible for most of the industry growth, yet just a small percentage of the 41 million fantasy sports players in North America play daily games. Yet, as Adam Krejcik of Eilers Research noted in his keynote presentation, the daily games are certainly the future of the industry.
“You can tell we’re at a tipping point in fantasy games, ” Krejcik told the attendees. “It’s a new way to watch sports. These are instantaneous propositions-one click. All online businesses are highly scalable, and this resonates well with millennial generation. DFS can provide instant gratification. It’s a real second-screen experience. “
It also holds the potential to generate huge revenues. Eilers Research projections shows that while sports wagering in Nevada is expected to stay relatively stable in the next five years at about $4 billion, the entry fees for DFS are expected to surpass that figure by 2016 and climb to more than $17 billion by 2020.
In one of his slides, Krejcik said, “The biggest risk for DFS is not regulation, but whether it can attract mass market appeal and avoid becoming too ‘hardcore’…(There is a) very delicate balance that needs to be maintained between ‘grinders’ and ‘casual’ players as industry matures. “
The conference covered a number of key themes important to both the mature fantasy company and those new members attending their first event. There were presentations on the next generation of statistic and fantasy games that can incorporate innovations such as Zebra Technologies’ RFID chip tracking football players for speed.
Other presentations focused on product launches and marketing opportunities. They included: a discussion by Facebook’s Owen O’Donoghue on how to better promote and advertise your business on the platform and Ben Nelson of Buffalo Wild Wings, who talked about how the company is embracing the fantasy player with programs that extend beyond their existing draft day business. There were also a pair of demographic studies looking at the difference between daily fantasy players and season-long players and how and why fantasy sports has not captured a larger part of the non-white and non-male audience.
That presentation from Dr. Brody Ruihely, assistant professor of sports administration at the University of Cincinnati, said issues of time needed to play the games and cultural barriers were two of the major reasons there are so few non-white male players. He suggested more focused marketing to women and African-Americans about fantasy sports, and that the expansion of fantasy games in sports such as soccer, both in the U.S. and internationally, could lead to wider acceptance and play in fantasy sports games by other cultural groups.
The conference also featured the Elevator Pitch, where fantasy sports entrepreneurs had three minutes to explain their idea for a new fantasy sports game or service to the attendees. The winner, chosen in a vote from members was Celebrity Fantasy Draft, which takes the mentions of names in celebrity magazines as the statistics and allows players to draft celebrities for their team. Points are awarded based on the number of mentions for each team member in the magazines selected for audit.
Two other major events highlighted the conference. On Thursday, Jan. 15, the FSTA Winter Conference began with the Experts Baseball Draft, broadcast live on Sirius XM radio and featured 13 teams of the top fantasy experts in the industry.
The other event was the FSTA Industry Awards dinner on Jan. 16, which handed our trophies for the top competitors in daily and season-long fantasy games as well as the top data providers for fantasy players.
Daily Recap Videos
AMONG THE WINNERS…
|Media Content||Best Media Product (TV Show, Radio, Podcast, etc.)||ESPN (Fantasy Football Now)|
|Best Print Product||RotoWire (Fantasy Baseball Guide 2014)|
|Mobile Implementation||Best Commissioner Product||Yahoo Sports (Yahoo Sports Fantasy App)|
|Best Content App||RotoWire (Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit 2014)|
|Best Daily Fantasy Product||FanDuel|
|Best Fantasy Sports Service/Tool||Fantasy Alarm|
|Web Implementation||Best Commissioner Product||Yahoo Sports (Yahoo Fantasy Sports)|
|Best Daily Fantasy Product||FanDuel|
|Best Fantasy Sports Service/Tool||RotoWire (Daily Fantasy Sports Lineup Optimizer)|
|Best Content: Multiple-Sports Sites||RotoWorld/NBC Sports|
|Best Non-Daily Contest Product||National Football League (NFL Perfect Challenge)|
|Rookie of the Year Product||Kountermove|
|Best Content: Single Sports Specialization Sites||Pro Football Focus|