The league unveiled a fantasy game based on NBA games called InPlay on Thursday. It appears to be the development of a product called FanDuel Turbo that never officially launched. The NBA has an equity stake in FanDuel.
“We are always looking at ways to enhance the viewing experience, drive people to tune in to our broadcasts and increase the time spent watching live games,” said Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, NBA Senior Vice President, Digital Media, in a press release on the launch. “NBA InPlay has the potential to meet these objectives while offering our fans an engaging, new way to experience the game.”
The product is live Thursday night for a pair of games on TNT:
The NBA calls InPlay a “new real-time mobile fantasy game that uses cutting-edge technology powered by FanDuel to synchronize with the live national broadcasts of NBA games.”
InPlay will be available for all NBA games broadcast on national networks:
Here’s the description of how the games work, per the NBA:
Each game telecast on TNT, NBA TV, ESPN and ABC provides the opportunity to play by launching the app to join a public contest or create a private game with friends. For each game telecast, users select their preferred team.
The user then chooses one player per quarter and accumulates points based on the player’s performance (points, rebounds, assists, etc.). Each quarter, users can strategically activate four “turbo boosts” which last 48 seconds and exponentially multiply point totals for the selected players.
Unlike traditional fantasy games, NBA InPlay users’ success is directly tied to viewing live NBA games and making in-game, real-time decisions in order to win.
Here’s a demo:
InPlay obviously is not played with real-money entry fees, like the base FanDuel DFS product, because of legal uncertainty in a wide swath of US jurisdictions. Prizes will be given out for the contests — with grand prizes including a $35,000 Autotrader credit (Autotrader sponsors the game) and tickets to the NBA Finals — later in the season, the NBA says.
The fan engagement provided by DFS is something that the pro sports leagues enjoy; it gives people a reason to care more about the games and to tune into broadcasts. But it still has its limitations, and is a passive form of engagement during the actual games.
The concept of in-game fantasy is one that has been trying to gain traction in the past couple of years, with entries from Boom Fantasy, WinView Games and ringit! from iPro, among others. In-game fantasy gives users and fans a reason to constantly be engaged with the real-world sporting events.
“Our mission is to offer sports fans exciting new ways to engage with the players and teams they love, through innovative sports entertainment products,” said Tom Griffiths, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer, FanDuel. “NBA InPlay is the first product of its kind and we are proud to partner with the NBA to give fans a revolutionary new way to enjoy the live viewing experience.”
FanDuel has been working on an iteration of this product for quite some time, based on last year’s realization of FanDuel Turbo.
With the pending merger between FanDuel and DraftKings, it will be interesting to see if the relationships the latter has with the NHL and Major League Baseball will be leveraged in a similar way. DraftKings also has a sports and fantasy content app called DKLive that rolled out earlier this year.