Yahoo Cup, FanDuel 'Friends Mode' Go Live
Legal Sports Report

Yahoo, FanDuel Join DraftKings With Daily And Season-Long Fantasy Hybrid Product

FanDuel Friends Mode
To date, 2016 for the daily fantasy sports has been about legal opinions and new laws.

Heading into the 2016 NFL season, the top operators in the DFS space are trying to make their products more like their seasonlong fantasy forerunners.

First, DraftKings introduced “Leagues.” This week, Yahoo and FanDuel are introducing similar products meant to make DFS a more social game that runs all season.

The Yahoo Cup

Yahoo was first to introduce its hybrid product, even though FanDuel had indicated its season-long variant would be coming when it rebranded and rolled out other changes.

Yahoo, of course, is already one of the market leaders when it comes to traditional season-long fantasy sports. But the new idea — the Yahoo Cup — tries to blend the idea of DFS and season-long.

Here’s how the Yahoo Cup, which is free to enter, works:

  • $100,000 is up for grabs over the course of the NFL season, with a $50,000 grand prize winner.
  • It’s a multi-round, single-entry contest, with 16 rounds.
  • Scoring is cumulative across all rounds.
  • Players can join the contest at any point in the season, and be in the running for weekly prizes.
  • Players draft a new team each week.

Daniel Haight, product director for Yahoo Sports Daily Fantasy, introduced the new Yahoo offering here.

FanDuel ‘Friends Mode’: Competing with season-long

While DraftKings and Yahoo are creating a differentiated product, FanDuel is making no bones about the idea that it is aiming at the season-long fantasy market.

“Friends” mode is now live on FanDuel’s website. The idea isn’t radically different from the DraftKings product on its face — or even its own DFS product, other than there is continuity from week to week. It is a far simpler idea and has far fewer options for customization than the DraftKings iteration.

FanDuel users can create a league with friends — or anyone they want to invite — that lasts all NFL season. Each week players can enter a contest, and draft a new team. There is a leaderboard that tracks how league users fare over the course of the season.

DraftKings was clearly more diplomatic in its marketing of Leagues, emphasizing it as complementary to the DK platform without saying it was eyeing marketshare in season-long fantasy.

FanDuel took a different tack; from Yahoo Finance:

And CEO Nigel Eccles takes it one step further, calling out competitors.

“Our business is growing, we’re expanding into new areas,” he tells Yahoo Finance. “And we’re going to be competing directly against ESPN, Yahoo, and other fantasy providers. Friends Mode is going to transform fantasy sports.”

Is the future of DFS in season-long?

Seasonlong fantasy, of course, has been around for decades. DFS has been around for less than 10 years. While it has grown leaps and bounds in that time, DFS has only crossed over to a small percentage of the seasonlong universe in a meaningful way.

But clearly DraftKings, FanDuel and the rest of the DFS space want to garner a bigger share of the more than 50 million fantasy players in North America. While there will be advertising this NFL season, it will pale in comparison to efforts in 2015, when the “Big Two” spent hundreds of millions of dollars on TV ads and marketing.

That leaves customer acquisition in the DFS space this fall to attempt to occur more organically than it did in recent years.

The idea that you can draft new teams every week was the initial appeal behind DFS, along with the fact that that you didn’t have to wait until the end of the season to win money. The simple concept of what amounts to seasonlong DFS leagues is certainly not revolutionary, but it’s one that hasn’t been pushed by the major players, until now.

Can the DFS industry — repackaged in a more social and seasonlong format  — make the pivot? The upcoming daily fantasy football season will be the first chance to find out.

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.