Legal Sports Report

FanDuel Adds Fantasy WNBA Contests, But Will It Move The Needle For Women, TV?

WNBA FanDuel

Daily fantasy sports site FanDuel recently announced a partnership with the WNBA and contests based on its games.

The addition of a relatively niche sport might not move the needle on a large scale. But the move will present an interesting experiment on two fronts: Whether DFS can attract more women, and how much DFS helps TV ratings.

FanDuel and the WNBA, at a glance

According to a press release from FanDuel, the deal makes it the “official, one-day fantasy partner of the WNBA.” Contests — which are already live — include both paid-entry and free-to-play versions.

The partnership between the two entities doesn’t come as much of a shock, as the NBA already has equity in the DFS company. The league also oversees the WNBA.

(It is notable, however, that DraftKings has a deal with the WNBA’s New York Liberty. The league also did an international deal with PlayON.)

More from the presser:

“We are constantly looking to innovate by finding new opportunities to engage with our passionate fans and introduce the WNBA to wider audiences,” said WNBA President Lisa Borders.  “This partnership with FanDuel and our new one-day fantasy game will be a fresh, unique way for fans to further connect with their favorite WNBA players and teams throughout our season.”

“The NBA has been a fantastic partner as we continue to build out our consumer offerings to appeal to all sports fans,” said Nigel Eccles, CEO of FanDuel. “We first launched NBA contests in 2009, debuted NBA InPlay late last year, and are now extending our basketball offerings to include WNBA, giving our users even more opportunities to play fantasy contests.” 

DraftKings had been the more active of the two major DFS companies in terms of adding other sports, although that has changed as FanDuel started offering soccer and golf.

DFS and women

The partnership is the first between a women’s professional league and a DFS site.

It is also the first time one of DFS’ “big two” will offer contests based solely on women’s sports. (DraftKings’ mixed martial arts contests include women who appear on UFC cards, however.)

To date, DFS has been largely the domain of men. Industry research from years past showed that less than 10 percent of DFS users are women. (The overall fantasy sports universe is populated by a larger percentage of women, perhaps as much as a third of all fantasy players.)

During large ad buys by both DraftKings and FanDuel in 2015, women were of secondary concern. In commercial campaigns from the sites in the ensuing two years, the emphasis was less on men.

Having DFS for a women’s pro sport is perhaps the biggest single thing the DFS industry has done to attract women. But will women play, and will they stay to play other sports? That remains to be seen.

DFS and TV ratings

The daily fantasy sports industry unquestionably generates more fan engagement with the underlying sports. Can that engagement, however, move the needle in a truly tangible way?

Some DFS proponents believe it will be a huge boon to the league, which is in its 21st season.

https://twitter.com/xBenJamminx/status/863401124879007745

DFS insiders like to claim credit for an uptick in ratings at the Golf Channel, although there is no empirical evidence tying fantasy sports to improved ratings. The Masters, the first major of the year, just saw its lowest ratings in more than a decade, despite huge interest in golf contests at DraftKings.

At the same time, DraftKings offers contests for NASCAR, which has seen its ratings crater.

The WNBA offers a chance to see if DFS can effect ratings and engagement in a meaningful way. While there are always other variables in play, an uptick in ratings along with the launch of DFS could imply a correlation.

Still, it will be tough to tell if FanDuel will have an impact on WNBA viewership on ratings alone, without further research or evidence. The league is already coming off a year in which it saw ratings improve 11 percent.

Image credit: dean bertoncelj / Shutterstock.com

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.