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Fantasy sports in the United Kingdom is on the verge of a growth explosion.
With the booming daily market in the United States offering a potentially interesting alternative from the established season-long model in the U.K. and Europe, new and existing DFS providers are striving to be at the sharp end of the market.
In the U.S and Canada, there are reportedly 2 million people playing daily fantasy sports in a market that continues to grow. The two big players, FanDuel and DraftKings, launched in 2009 and 2011 respectively and made their mark initially in NFL; they now dominate the market stateside.
Crucially, neither of these providers are plying their trade in Europe, primarily due to the tricky current status of fantasy sports as a skill game rather than gambling (which, given its differing status outside of the U.S. could cause problems in the primary territory for both juggernauts).
On the European side of the Atlantic, the landscape is very different, with providers offering predominantly season-long soccer leagues. Notably, the fantasy manager pool is considerably smaller.
The UK’s largest fantasy sports provider is the English Premier League, with a reported three million users on a season-long basis. Other providers, such as U.K. newspapers The Sun or Daily Telegraph, or TV broadcaster Sky Sports, have user numbers in the hundreds of thousands or low millions.
Looking at the penetration of both markets in proportion to overall population, the U.S. is much higher at 10%, while the U.K. can be estimated at closer to 5%.
All these facts leave three crucial opportunities for European DFS providers:
Football Fanager launched ahead of the FIFA World Cup in 2014, and we have already seen a principally organic growth to more than 25,000 registered users. While these numbers don’t currently trouble the U.S. providers, they compare favourably with the established season-long providers, particularly given the immaturity of the DFS market.
There are an estimated 5 to 6 million traditional season-long fantasy players in the UK at the moment, while only 3 to 5% of those are currently playing DFS. This is a potentially massive market to tap into.
Of that burgeoning pool of 150,000 DFS players, we’re also seeing a good conversion rate from free-to-play players to paying customers – around 10%. Of the complete market, a player spends around £100 a season on DFS.
That’s a healthy enough paying customer pool worth £1.5 million, but this is just the beginning of the story. We’re foreseeing the market to boom by the end of the next season, driven by huge mass appeal in tournaments such as the UEFA European Championships.
The chance to wager and win money on DFS in the U.K. is also attractive to the betting market, with the online gambling industry in the country now worth around £1.2bn. That’s an attractive pool which DFS providers are looking to target.
Without a recognised big marketing spender in the U.K. – no FanDuel or DraftKings (although the latter has applied for a U.K. license) – the opportunity is there for providers to build up that organic growth and create a new subsection of the betting and gaming market that reaches the general non-betting sports fan, the traditional bettor and the middle-ground of both.
While there is some way to go yet for the European DFS market to rival the U.S., there are some green shoots of progress which DFS providers can begin to get very excited about.