Like many other fantasy sports fans, I too am sick of seeing advertisements for weekly fantasy leagues hosted by sites like DraftKings & FanDuel. However, I’m not annoyed by the volume of these commercials so much as my inability to participate.
Iowa, along with nine other states, have strict laws regarding sports gambling. In the eyes of state legislators, cash payouts for fantasy sport wins are considered gambling, and thus illegal. Many fantasy sport organizations, players, and myself agree that sport gambling laws should not apply to fantasy sports because fantasy sports are much more than just a double down at a blackjack table. This game requires skill to win, not chance.
Fantasy sports have even caught the attention of the current election cycle, with the Clinton campaign purchasing banner ads that were displayed on the ESPN fantasy football homepage the day before the first evening of debate.
Journalist Andrew Bucholtz argues that a display ad feels more permanent than a video in an article discussing the ad . Screenshotting a video is practically useless because you wouldn’t be able to get a sense of the message the video is trying to convey. But a banner ad such as this conveys the entire message in a still image. In my opinion, ESPN should just #sticktosports.
Let us take a step back for a moment and examine fantasy sports as a whole. The first fantasy sport game took place in “…the latter part of the 1950s, in which each player selected a team of professional golfers and the person with the lowest combined total of strokes at the end of the tournament would win.” Fast forward to 2016, and there over 57 million North Americans playing fantasy football, baseball, basketball, soccer and hockey.
Fantasy sport players also tend to be “…younger, better educated, [have] higher household incomes and are more likely to have full time employment…” according to studies conducted by the Fantasy Sport Trade Association (FTSA).
If only I could make a little money off of this hobby right? DraftKings alone has paid out over one billion dollars in cash prizes to numerous winners.
Unlike Iowa, California just recently passed a bill that allows daily fantasy betting to take place. In fact, several of the state’s professional sport teams such as the Clippers, Lakers, Kings and 49ers rallied in support of the bill.
“Team representatives said daily fantasy leagues have helped make professional sports more interactive and interesting to fans” according to an article written by the LA Times.
The support by professional sport organizations for bills such as these should not be misconstrued as an opportunity to rig games. Audience engagement is an absolute must for modern media companies to survive today. With ratings continually dropping for ESPN’s most popular program, Sunday Night Football, one could only imagine what ratings for less popular programs look like.
Sports executives are beginning to run out of ways to drive audience engagement and repeat consumption. Fantasy sports certainly will not be a saving grace, but could certainly keep the door open long enough for the next era of live sports consumption to be ushered in. I’ll keep a spare forty dollars in my wallet when Iowa decides to change its mind.