Yahoo launched its real-money daily fantasy sports on product Wednesday, leading the mainstream media to call DFS gambling, and some accusations from FanDuel.
Here’s a look at some of what went down on Yahoo’s launch day:
When Yahoo does something, people notice
Daily fantasy sports has been the recipient of its share of news coverage as it has quickly morphed from niche market to an industry with billions of dollars involved.
But Yahoo has upped the ante, in more ways than one. The giant publicly traded company is by far the biggest entity to jump into the DFS market, and what that comes more coverage. And more scrutiny.
Some of the biggest news organizations in the U.S. covered the DFS launch.
In the New York Times, the Yahoo story appeared on the front page of its “B” section. It got a little less play in the Wall Street Journal, (paywall) which ran it on B3. Both stories ran with stories online Wednesday afternoon.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway? Both stories refer to DFS as gambling — a designation the industry tries very hard to avoid. If mainstream media paints the picture in that manner, could it possibly be long before other people who matter — like politicians and regulators — begin to think the same way?
The New York Times
You didn’t need to read very far into the story to get the reference to gambling in the NYT. Here is the lede:
Even as legalized gambling has spread nationwide to include lotteries, casinos and just about every imaginable type of slot machine, the notion of betting on sports has remained, outside of Las Vegas, largely in the shadows.
But on Wednesday, Yahoo took the boldest step yet to bring what amounts to legalized betting on sports to the mainstream.
Yahoo’s move further legitimizes a pastime that closely resembles gambling.
Much of the rest of the story is background on the industry. But the beginning focuses on its legality and DFS’ similarities to gambling, while also addressing its status as a game of skill.
The Wall Street Journal
The angle was much the same in the WSJ, which didn’t mince words at all:
Yahoo Inc. is looking to supplement its stagnant advertising business with a new foray into legal online gambling.
The story challenges the DFS industry’s assertion that it isn’t gambling far less than the New York Times, however.
- Buzzfeed: “Today, it unveiled a a new, cash-powered version of fantasy sports that the company’s leadership hopes will take advantage of that massive audience to compete with established players like DraftKings and FanDuel, and take this form of online sports gambling mainstream.”
- Time: “The tech giant on Wednesday unveiled an updated version of its fantasy-sports app that allows users to bet money each day and each week with friends.”
- Los Angeles Times: “Yahoo Sports has raised the stakes for fans of its fantasy leagues, launching a daily and weekly betting service that could introduce tens of millions of people to legalized online sports gambling.”
FanDuel isn’t very happy
One of the interesting stories that came out of yesterday is FanDuel’s reaction to the launch.
The company is taking issue with Yahoo’s DFS platform; namely the company believes Yahoo has mimicked their look.
More from the WSJ:
“When we heard that Yahoo was joining the daily fantasy space we expected something new and exciting that could affect the industry,” Nigel Eccles, chief executive of FanDuel, said in an email. “Now to see that they’ve spent the last six months cloning FanDuel’s product—pixel for pixel—is totally flattering, but also slightly disappointing.”
Also on Wednesday, Legal Sports Report reached out to FanDuel, and a spokesperson offered this: “If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Yahoo must have a crush on FanDuel.”
Certainly, the web platforms look very similar. Here are the two lobbies, stripped of everything but the contests (FanDuel, followed by Yahoo).
The fonts used are the same — both are Helvetica, which is one of the most common fonts on the web. However, Yahoo has used that font for its seasonlong offering previously.
While there aren’t a lot of ways to construct a fantasy lobby, Yahoo does seem to have used FanDuel’s conventions: a clean, white theme, black-and-white ball icons and colored circles designating “multi-entry” and “guaranteed prize pool” contests. No one, certainly, would confuse Yahoo’s lobby for DraftKings‘ lobby.
At the same time, you can see similarities to both in another DFS site, Victiv. Check out its lobby here. Yahoo’s look might have less to do with copying than it’s just the most effective way to organize DFS contests in the eyes of web developers. However, Yahoo also did precious little to differentiate its web platform from FanDuel.
If anyone has a problem with the iOS apps looking alike, it’s difficult to see a similarity. Here are screenshots of a player selection screen, for example (FanDuel first):
Adding to the intrigue between the two companies is Clifton Ma. Until last month, according to his LinkedIn profile, he was the senior director of fantasy sports at Yahoo. His new gig? General manager of new products at FanDuel. Obviously, the companies were going to be rivals anyway, but the FanDuel accusations and the Ma hire obviously take it to a level.