Yahoo’s Claim Of 1.3 Million Daily Fantasy Sports Users In First Two Weeks Doesn’t Match Reality

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Yahoo DraftKings

Updated story: Yahoo says it made an error in the number of DFS players.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said that her company’s daily fantasy sports product attracted 1.3 million users over its first two weeks, a number that does not appear accurate from anecdotally following the site’s launch.

What Yahoo’s CEO said

Mayer was speaking for her company’s earnings call for the second quarter of 2015. During the call, she briefly touched on Yahoo’s DFS product, which launched two weeks ago. Here is what she said:

In the two weeks since launch, over 1.3 million users have tried Daily Fantasy sports and the number of players on our daily games has already exceeded our early expectations. What’s more, approximately half of all the users who play Yahoo! Daily Fantasy sports are paying users and we see this percentage increasing over time.

That figure was also offered in a Wall Street Journal story that came out of the Yahoo call.

So has Yahoo actually gotten 1.3 million users to try its DFS product? That seems unlikely, and there appears to be a disconnect between what Mayer said and what is actually going on at Yahoo.

You can read the full transcript here.

1.3mm users have tried Yahoo DFS?

Legal Sports Report has not tracked the entrants of every contest played since Yahoo at launch, but we have checked in on its guaranteed contests almost daily to see its progress.

When we see the phrase “1.3 million users have tried Daily Fantasy sports” — and the 650,000 paying players, or half of 1.3mm — here is what a reasonable person would take that to mean:

The phrase “tried” used by Mayer also would seem to indicate some sort of active engagement, like playing a contest, not just looking at the DFS lobby. If we use that understanding of “user” and “tried,” it seems unlikely that Yahoo has actually met those figures. That could mean there’s an issue in how DFS usership was presented in the call.

Also, a user for Yahoo DFS is somewhat different from a user for a traditional DFS site. Anyone who already has an account with Yahoo can access the free contests, with no extra steps or sign-up required. And people who already play season-long fantasy — on the web and iOS platforms — now have easy access to the DFS product. (A separate download isn’t required, just a click of a button from a browser or an update to the app.)

It’s much easier to classify a “user” at any other DFS site, as they actively have to sign up for the site and/or enter contests.

Assumptions made to get to 1.3mm

Yahoo launched two weeks ago, but during that time, Major League Baseball had its All-Star Game break. That means contests have not been running continuously for the two weeks.

Mayer spoke on Tuesday, so even if we count that day, that means Yahoo had offered contests on 10 days, since MLB is its only product, currently. If that’s the case, then we’re to assume, based on Mayer’s figures, that Yahoo DFS has generated:

That would be an amazing feat for Yahoo. But is it really possible?

Anecdotal evidence from Yahoo

Here’s some evidence that would point to the idea that there are not 1.3mm users taking part in Yahoo DFS contests:

Based on those examples, it’s difficult to see how Yahoo got to 1.3 million users, or 650,000 paid users. All of the contests referenced above would have easily filled if Yahoo’s user claims are correct.

We have not actively watched Yahoo’s cash games, but based on the numbers in the guaranteed contests, it’s not believable that that makes up the gap.

We can say with confidence that DraftKings and FanDuel have both had far more activity since launch based on internal data, and Yahoo’s claim would outpace both. The most entries Legal Sports Report observed on a single day was under 12,000.

What else could 1.3mm refer to?

We think it’s pretty clear that 1.3 million people haven’t actually played Yahoo DFS. So where is the disconnect on the numbers? Some possible explanations:

Yahoo is still new to the space, and some hiccups are expected — after all this amounts to a beta test before NFL season. If there had been 1.3 million people playing at Yahoo, its DFS launch would be deemed an overwhelming success that far outpaces any projections anyone had. To believe that 1.3 million users have tried Yahoo DFS defies logic.

Disbelief from industry experts

A lot of people who follow the industry have questioned Yahoo’s numbers:

Photo by Scott Schiller used under license CC BY 2.0.