Nowhere To Go But Up? New Data About Daily Fantasy Sports Points To Positive Trends

Written By Dustin Gouker on June 30, 2015

More fantasy sports players than ever are women and participation in fantasy continues to grow, according to research released at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association summer conference.

The key takeaways

Almost all of the data from a study on fantasy sports was fascinating, and continues to point to an upward trend for the DFS industry. Here’s a rundown of some of the key points.

  • More people are playing fantasy. 51.6 million people age 12 and over in the United States, are playing fantasy sports. That represents 20 percent of the population, up from 14 percent in 2014.
  • Women are playing fantasy sports in much larger numbers. About a third of the fantasy sports-playing population is female, a huge increase from a 80%-20% split from the last time the gender split was researched.
  • More people are playing daily fantasy sports, both overall and exclusively. This certainly isn’t shocking. Seventeen percent of all fantasy players play DFS exclusively, up from 8 percent in 2013.
  • DFS consumer spending is up dramatically. The average DFS player spends $257 annually. That figure was $15 in 2012.
  • Fantasy players are becoming increasingly mobile. Just 44 percent of players said a desktop or laptop computer is their primary device for fantasy sports, down from 68 percent in 2013.
  • Fantasy players consume more media because of fantasy sports. Sixty percent of participants say they watch more live sports or read more content because of fantasy sports.

You can see the basics of the research at the FSTA website, or all of the data if you are a dues-paying member.

What’s it all mean?

Here are some of our forward-looking thoughts on what some of the data means:

More people playing, but you still need to acquire and retain them

It’s great that more people are playing fantasy sports. But if you’re a DFS site, you still have issues to overcome.

There’s more and more competition on the horizon, in the form of Yahoo and Amaya, and from the sites below DraftKings and FanDuel that are hoping to carve out marketshare. For fantasy sites that offer salary cap games, there is also the issue of the skill gap between the best DFS players and casual ones, which could lead to problems in player attrition and the DFS economic ecosystem.

But if more people know what DFS is and have at least tried it, that’s a good thing. Retaining them, of course, could be a different story.

More women playing fantasy is a positive development

Clearly, the fact that fantasy sports is moving away from a male-dominated model is good for the industry as a whole. However, we’re unsure of how the numbers break down in terms of season-long and DFS.

At the winter conference, FanDuel presented data that showed DFS players were 95 percent male. We’d have to guess that the Ipsos study, if we had more data, would show DFS has made in-roads from that lopsided gender breakdown.

We’re not sure what the magic bullet is for creating more interest by women in daily fantasy sports, but clearly it’s a worthwhile endeavor as DFS tries to widen its potential player pool.

Does spend per player still have to go up?

The fact that DFS is now averaging $257 per fantasy player is great for the industry, considering how small that spend was just a few years ago.

But right now, no DFS operator is making a profit. Which means sites will need to get more money out of each player, in addition to acquiring more players.

DFS sites increasingly need to think mobile first

Given the fact that the use of computers is down among fantasy players, that obviously means fantasy sports sites need to cater to mobile users. The inverse relationship between desktop/laptop and mobile device usage is likely to continue on its same path.

Salary-cap games on FanDuel and DraftKings are available via apps, but setting a lineup on a phone — given how contests are currently structured and the amount of research required — is really not ideal.

Simplifying how DFS players use sites, or simplifying the games themselves, to optimize mobile usage might be the future of the industry. And alternative forms of DFS (i.e. non-salary cap contests) could be the wave of the future. Of course, those games bring with them possible legal issues, but that’s a matter for another story.

The linchpin: DFS drives engagement

The reason DFS is so popular with venture capitalists, leagues and other interests? It creates more fan engagement, and gets more eyes on broadcasts and websites (and for longer periods of time).

As long as DFS continues to find ways to make fans consume more content, the industry would appear to have a bright future.

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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.

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