Final Fantasy

Back in July, we gave you a taste of a Fantasy Sports piece we had been working on. Well guess what? Here for you today is the complete, unabridged version. Check it!

Online fantasy sports are big"¦real big. In September of 2005 over 9.5M people in the U.S. were involved in a fantasy sports league through one of the three largest fantasy services- Yahoo, Sportsline and ESPN. To put this in perspective, the volume of people playing fantasy on these three sites equates to the population of Michigan. As such, fantasy sports have emerged as big business and changed the way sports are viewed, reported and discussed. We won’t go so far to say Fantasy Sports has changed the world, but it certainly is an interesting topic to investigate from a social and business perspective.

To peel back the layers of Fantasy Sports, Compete investigated the online fantasy sports activity of its 2M member panel and conducted a behaviorally targeted survey of 300 people who exhibited both free and paid fantasy sports participation. The purpose of the study was to better understand:

  • Which services (Yahoo, Sportsline, or ESPN) are delivering the best fantasy experience?
  • Who is the fantasy sports enthusiast?
  • What drives people to pay for fantasy sports leagues?

Market Share

All three of these sites offer free public leagues as well as private paid leagues. Although Yahoo garners the lowest satisfaction mark it also yields a commanding 68% market share of the combined free and paid market. While Sportsline and ESPN are leaders in the niche online sporting news market, Yahoo has the advantage of being the largest national internet property (120M monthly visitors) and one of the most recognized and trusted online brands.

Where the ladies at?

Of no surprise, the majority of Fantasy players are males (70%); however we are excited to announce that females are getting involved. Female participation has seen healthy growth in recent years. While 53% of the men surveyed were participating in fantasy sports for 5 years, only 23% of the females have participated for as many years. Regardless of their tenure, these women are in it to win it and every bit as much as their male counterparts. When asked "Do you root for a player that is on your fantasy team even when he plays against your favorite professional team?" 59% of females agreed compared to only 56% of males.

Despite the emerging enthusiasm for Fantasy among females, the majority of the participation is for football and not baseball or basketball. Men, on the other hand, enlist in both football and baseball at an even clip. Females find the 16 game football schedule much more engaging than the 162 game, 6 month long, baseball calendar.

Show me the money!!!

In all cases, respondents who participate in free leagues are more satisfied than those that pay. People who pay expect more and are more critical of their respective site. This is because participants who pay to play are seasoned veterans, 37% of them have been in the game for more than seven years. Just 16% of non-payers were playing fantasy sports seven years ago.

So how does one attract these open wallet participants? Our survey found that two specific features answer this question; customer service and statistical reporting. People who pay are far more likely to emphasize the importance of both "customer service" and "statistical reporting". It makes sense; every fantasy player likes to over complicate the analysis of their team and every league has at least one major dispute per year that tests the bonds of friendship"¦ but, it’s nothing a good stat tracker and customer service resolution can’t fix.

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