How ESPN is winning the Fantasy Football War
Fantasy Football is estimated to be an 800-million dollar industry. And it’s skyrocketing in growth. (ESPN says its users are up more than 20% this year).
We’re quickly approaching a time when the top fantasy site will be a billion dollar brand. And unless something changes, that site will be ESPN.com’s.
First, I’ve been in a league since I got to college. And after five years of faithfully rejoining my Yahoo league (and 2 years of paying for live scoring updates), my league finally transferred to ESPN.
We couldn’t have made a better decision.
The interface looks like someone actually spent time on it! The Draft has sportscenter sound effects. The league offers free live scoring (which forced Yahoo to finally do the same). It’s just a much better product.
But it’s not just graphics that will win ESPN the Fantasy War. It’s the tactics the monolith is employing, tactics which should have already become standard operating procedure for media companies today! Here are the main reasons ESPN has begun to dominate the fantasy category.
1) Own every piece of whatever you do best. ESPN IS sports, at least to the average person: Where do you go when you’re looking for sports? ESPN. They have the most well-known fantasy personality (Matthew Berry), and a number of writers who play Fantasy. All of who are walking, writing, catchphrase using advertisements for ESPN fantasy usage. Why would you play in a Yahoo league when the guy you set your lineups by has his own league?
ESPN probably learned this lesson by watching Sports Illustrated. SI could have bought ESPN. They didn’t. ESPN won’t make the same mistake with any competitive pieces.
This goes back to last week’s post about line extensions. ESPN is a sports brand. Fantasy is now one of the main drivers of the popularity of the NFL. So ESPN must have the best fantasy site. And they do.
2) Capitalize on Free: ESPN doesn’t charge for Live Scoring. That is a game-changer. And they needed it. Quite honestly, ESPN missed the boat on fantasy sports. Yahoo has been the brand leader for a long time. But ESPN took advantage of the shifting costs, and beat Yahoo the one place that it could really make an impact, Free Live Scoring.
That’s exactly what the book “Free” was telling companies to do. Use the shifting costs of digital distribution to, you know, disrupt your competition’s advantages. And just as Gmail forced email companies to offer more free storage, Yahoo has been forced to offer Free Live scoring as well.
3) Be cool. Really, when it comes down to it, ESPN Fantasy is cool. It’s slick, it has graphics, it has sound effects and celebrity sports people like Bill Simmon’s are playing it. And ESPN spent money for on-site talent/personalities, something Yahoo has never done. So ESPN will win any battle where there are hearts and minds. It’s the power of celebrity.
That’s the power of ESPN. Will Yahoo ever have an answer?