Fantasy Sports: Fleeting Folly or Fabulous Gold Mine? – Part 4 (Guest Blog)

Will the appeal of Fantasy Sports and eSports endure the test of time as companies and online leagues struggle to win the acceptance (and the dollars) of this challenging, yet growing segment, of attention deficit consumers?

Fantasy Sports

And finally, in part four of our four-part series for TheWrap, we review the advent of fantasy sports and gauge its impact on the world of sports and its appeal to the coveted younger/ millennial consumers.

Despite minimal interest among older consumers, companies can also benefit by targeting Millennial consumers through fantasy sports and eSports programming. Season-long fantasy sports usage among both casual and active Millennial fans currently stands at a robust 46% — more than three times the level of non-Millennial participation (see Figure 2). Furthermore, as season-long fantasy participation increases, so does one’s interest in the real-life equivalent — for instance, more than half of fantasy football players (56%) reported spending more time watching actual NFL games.

fantasy sports millennials LEK consulting

While daily fantasy sports (DFS) usage among Millennials isn’t nearly as strong as season-long sports (28%), data suggests that DFS nevertheless can serve as a gateway to sports fandom in general. According to the survey, some 53% of Millennial respondents were either casual, marginal or nonfans prior to becoming DFS players; more than half (55%) said they were significantly more interested in real sports as a result of participating in DFS.

eSports

Like fantasy sports, eSports is largely the domain of the young, with more than half of Millennial respondents either strongly or marginally interested (compared with a mere 21% of non-Millennials). Although fantasy and real sports tend to go hand in hand, however, the opposite is true with eSports — which may help explain the strong disinterest among sports traditionalists (only 6% of pro football fans identify as avid eSports followers, for instance). Nonetheless, current eSports customers appear receptive to a range of affiliated content and merchandising, from documentaries and animated films to live-action and even reality TV programming. Engaging viewers with digital over-the-top programming, fantasy and eSports are three digital engagement strategies that sports media stakeholders can use to attract Millennials as well as future generations of fans. As other avenues emerge, leagues, broadcasters, marketers/retailers and other industry participants will find it increasingly important to tap into these emerging platforms in order to connect with consumers and remain relevant in the years ahead.

Challenges for fantasy/eSports:

-Daily fantasy sports is still in the process of rebuilding public and regulator trust and has yet to become a mainstream product.
-Season-long fantasy sports is led by a small group of companies (among them ESPN and Yahoo! Sports), and as such, the potential hasnít been fully realized by leagues/others.
-eSports needs both structure and an effective strategy in order to tie in with traditional sports (for instance, the Philadelphia 76ers’ owners have purchased eSports teams with the goal of bringing them under the Sixers’ support infrastructure; similarly, BAMTech, the streaming technology arm of Major League Baseball, recently signed a deal with Riot Games, a subsidiary of Chinese media giant Tencent, to stream League of Legends tournaments).

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Despite their early popularity and broad acceptance, both fantasy sports and eSports still need to overcome some hurdles in order to become accepted by a broad majority of viewers and consumers nationwide. We will continue to monitor and gauge the growth of these fads and will report updates and findings in future editions of L.E.K. on TheWrap.

We would love to hear from you, our readers. Agree? Disagree? Have your say and post in the comments below!

This is Part 4 in a series by Alex EvansGil Moran and Dan Schechter from L.E.K. Consulting’s Media & Entertainment practice.