FanDuel's World Fantasy Baseball Championship Matches DraftKings' Contest
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No Free Pass For DraftKings: FanDuel’s Matches Stakes With $4mm Baseball Contest

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FanDuel apparently has no plans to concede the lion’s share of the daily fantasy sports market for baseball to DraftKings — in a move that shouldn’t be shocking to anyone in the DFS space — recently announcing a $4 million live final featuring former baseball and football star Bo Jackson.

Money piling up for daily fantasy baseball players

The event, called the 2015 World Fantasy Baseball Championship, will take place August 21-22 at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

The winner will receive a million dollars, and another $3 million will be divided up among the other 89 participants. More details on the contest can be found here.

The live final matches the Fantasy Baseball Championship being offered by DraftKings — the official DFS partner of Major League Baseball — which is handing out $4mm, with $1mm for first place. Their event takes place the weekend before, also in Las Vegas, and features 60 total participants.

DraftKings had originally set the prize pool for their 2015 MLB championship at $3mm. The change to $4mm was made in May, according to a site representative.

It also comes as Fantasy Feud announced a $500,000 online MLB final, which appears to be the largest non-football DFS contest ever offered by someone other than FD or DK.

Tapping into star power

Obviously, neither FanDuel or DraftKings is going to get an active player to attend a function in Vegas in the middle of the season. Jackson, a transcendent two-sport star, is a pretty good get.

While Jackson might trend a little old on his demographic — he is 52 years old now — he resonates with sports fans in their mid-30s and older, and younger DFS players probably at least know who he is.

Jackson will host a home-run derby at Las Vegas’ Big League Dreams facility, hitting against the iconic sports star in batting practice.

Here’s one of the “quotes” from Jackson, per FanDuel:

“As the unquestioned leader in the space, FanDuel is going out of their way to create an incredible experience at the World Fantasy Baseball Championship in August for their users. It’s a privilege to be able to host this event, do some batting practice with these fantasy players and award $1,000,000 to the winner.”

DraftKings > FanDuel?

At this moment in time, it appears DraftKings — by a number of metrics — can be considered the largest DFS site in the world. At least until football season rolls around. That’s because of a couple of factors:

  • DraftKings’ relationships with MLB and more than 20 franchises has given the site a marketing advantage in the baseball DFS space.
  • FanDuel is pretty much offering just baseball right now, as football, basketball and hockey are all in their offseasons. DraftKings, on the other hand, is active in golf, NASCAR, mixed martial arts and soccer DFS. For legal, strategic or other reasons, FanDuel has stayed out of those verticals.

On most normal MLB days, DraftKings is even with or outpacing FanDuel, at least in terms of guaranteed prize pool contests.

For instance, on Monday, DraftKings is guaranteeing $550,000 across its three largest contests and more than $700K overall in events that aren’t qualifiers or satellites. FanDuel guarantees $375K in its largest trio of contests, with more than $600K across all non-qualifier and non-satellite contests.

The gap, or who is offering more in GPPs, can vary depending on the day or if one site is running a special contest.

But not so fast, DraftKings

Clearly, the big live final by FanDuel is meant to signal that the company is far from willing to cede baseball to DraftKings.

What impact it will have on FanDuel’s numbers (active users, prize pools, etc.) over the course of the summer remains to be seen.

And while FanDuel’s strategy might rely on having a huge NFL season — that is when the majority of any DFS site’s revenue will be generated — the other three major North American team sports remain battlegrounds as well. That’s the case even though the major leagues — MLB (DraftKings), NHL (DraftKings) and NBA (FanDuel) — have chosen one of the major DFS sites as a partner.

As those DFS-league partnerships become solidified (the NBA and NHL deals happened in the middle of those league’s seasons late in 2014), it will be interesting to see how the site in the less advantageous position counters the marketing advantage of the other.

For instance, while DraftKings has exclusive rights to sign deals with specific MLB teams, that’s not the case with the other leagues. Team deals could continue to be a way to attempt to offset the other’s advantage with support from the overarching leagues.

So, in the end, the $4mm baseball championship is a continuation of the current status quo — DraftKings and FanDuel fighting tooth and nail for the hearts and minds of DFS players, and trying to prove who’s bigger.

It also sets the table for NFL season. If $4mm is the standard for a final in baseball, what kind of figures are we going to see for NFL DFS contests and the two sites’ live finals?

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.
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