The first weekend of regular season football since 2015 is now upon us. A lot has happened in the past few months but it always amazes me how special the NFL is to sports fans. Obviously fans have their favorite teams they cheer on regardless, but with the explosion of fantasy football, and especially daily fantasy football sites, the excitement has grown significantly over the past 10 years. Similar to how much the growth of the NFL can be attributed to Vegas betting lines, much of the recent growth can almost exclusively be correlated to the growth of Fantasy Football games.
Many industry experts place the net worth of the Fantasy Football industry somewhere in the area of 3-5 billion. Yes, that is billions… with a “B”. The NFL as a whole is worth about 30-40 billion if you combine the estimated net worth of all the NFL teams. So Fantasy Football is worth around 8-10% of the entire NFL. That is pretty crazy considering that 15 years ago, a lot of the popular sites like Yahoo didn’t even mention fantasy sports on their site. Fantasy football has been around for a long time, however it was always considered an “underground” activity organized and ran by stat geeks and enthusiasts with more time to waste than the average person. Why would you cheer for players from a team, that isn’t your home team? That concept took a while to catch on.
Ah yes, but then the money kicked in. People, and more importantly, larger companies realized they could advertise or sell advertisement to a new, untapped, and increasingly large group of players, and they caught on to the wave. That really pushed fantasy sports into a whole other level. Once it was realized that there was real money to be made, the focus became centered around how these sites like Yahoo, ESPN, and NFL.com can attract the average fan to play a game that was once considered to be reserved for only the most passionate and dedicate NFL fans. Once these sites created extremely well designed user friendly interfaces and provided fantasy team owners with insider tips and player rankings, it made it easy enough for anyone to play.
Now everything has almost flipped. The “average” NFL fan is now the fan who cheers for their home team AND participates in some sort of Fantasy Football activity. The minority group is now the one that DOESN’T play Fantasy Football. Think about that... The stat geeks have now truly inherited the NFL universe. Even people that don’t like football are obsessed with Fantasy Football. There are hundreds of sites that have their own rankings, algorithms, and strategies. There are a thousand of different ways to play whether its daily leagues, season long, or dynasty leagues. Cash games, large cash purse tournaments, and 50/50 tournaments can be found on a number of sites now. You can literally find Fantasy Football anywhere on the internet where the NFL is mentioned. TV shows and radio shows are now exclusively created to discuss Fantasy Football. Heck, SiriusXM Radio even has a dedicate 24/7 Fantasy Sports radio station.
So is this good for the game? Well it is certainly good for the NFL. Increase in revenue from all areas including advertising, merchandise sales, and TV deals like the NFLRZ channel are certainly beneficial. I would suggest that it is also good for the fans. I’ve always been of the opinion that the more the fans understand about the games and players, the more they will enjoy the sport in general. Do I as a Broncos fan cringe every time Jamal Charles scores against my time even though I have him on my fantasy team? Yes. But the best part about Fantasy Football is that anyone can play it using any strategy. The game is solely for fun, or at least it should be. Fantasy Football is here to stay, although one would have to assume it won’t increase in user count as much as it has over the past 10 years. Then again, isn’t that the fantasy of it all?