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The fight between DraftKings and FanDuel for market dominance is what most of the industry is focused on right now. But the battle for market share on the next tier will be just as fierce in in the final third of 2015 and beyond.
And Fantasy Feud is positioned as well as anyone to carve out a substantial portion of the DFS pie.
If anyone had any doubt about Fantasy Feud’s ambitions for the DFS space, those were likely eliminated when it launched its $1 million “Feud of Champions.” Taking place on December 27th, or Week 16 of the NFL season, the contest will award a million dollars, with a quarter of a million going to the winner. Qualifiers are running every week to fill the contest.
“I think the big thing is trying to establish ourselves as a market leader,” Fantasy Feud President Justin Shulman said in a recent interview with Legal Sports Report. “In the past, we have just been a reputable daily fantasy company that sort of had some niche offerings. And I think what we’re trying to do is still be that company with niche offerings, but we want to step it up and let people know we are for real.
“And we thought a seven-figure prize pool going into football would do that,” Shulman continued. “And some of our competitors, that were on our level in the past, are now a notch below that.”
For Week 1, Fantasy Feud also has a pretty aggressive slate of guaranteed contests — more than $230,000 in all — that puts it in the upper level of DFS sites not named FanDuel and DraftKings. (Yahoo is offering about $1.5 million in prizes for Week 1, while second-year DFS site FantasyDraft is offering more than $400,000.)
Fantasy Feud has always had its sights set high in the DFS industry — year over year through the first half of 2015, Shulman said Fantasy Feud is up about 500 percent in terms of its key metrics.
But Feud’s expectations — and resources — have increased when it was acquired and folded into a new company, called Gaming Nation.
The merger of four complementary sports-focused businesses under one banner took place in June, and the logistics of combining the businesses was some of the focus of Gaming Nation this summer. Gaming Nation also raised $50 million in capital when it formed.
One of the goals of the new company is to funnel users to Fantasy Feud from the other three business — FantasyGuru.com, a fantasy information site run by John Hansen; Pick Nation, a handicapping site; and 5050 Central, which runs electronic raffle systems.
Now, with NFL season upon us, Gaming Nation will be able to leverage is its assets to help push customer acquisition for Feud.
“Fantasy Guru is the business that most meshes with ours, and we really couldn’t do anything with them until now,” Shulman said. “It’s a fantasy football site. We just didn’t want to start resonating with his audience until football season was closer.”
“This is the most aggressive we’ve been able to be,” Fantasy Feud vice president of marketing Justin Lalonde added, talking about the flexibility and resources offered by being a part of Gaming Nation. “And it’s really going to come to fruition in the NFL season.”
Even before NFL season, Fantasy Feud has been one of the most aggressive sites in terms of adding sports to its platform. Beyond the typical pro team sports that every fantasy operator offers, Fantasy Feud also has college football and basketball, and has rolled out golf and NASCAR contests. It even partnered with the National Lacrosse League to offer fantasy lacrosse.
Sites all over the daily fantasy industry are trying to find the magic bullet to converting season-long players to DFS. Fantasy Feud has a spin on trying to solve that conundrum, without trying to outspend the likes of DraftKings in customer acquisition.
That answer? What amounts to season-long daily leagues. For one price point, players can join a single “league” that features individual daily fantasy contests throughout the season, with money up for grabs each week. Lalonde explained it further:
“We’ve positioned this as the contest where traditional and daily fantasy collide,” Lalonde said. “The way we try to build these contests, we give the season-long player the continuity of playing in the same league against the same guys every week, but give them the opportunity to test themselves in the daily format. It’s a great learning tool for new people coming to the site.”
Fantasy Feud is so eager to have season-long players jump into the DFS fray, the site will create custom leagues for you, with any number of people, any entry fee, and any payout structure. All you have to do is email them and tell them what you want. There’s a free version, with real money prizes, as well.
Fantasy Feud also provides a survivor-style contest, where users pick three players per week, but they can only pick those players once during the season. The “survivor” format is one that the more casual sports fan might be familiar with, even if they have never played DFS previously, and it’s inherently easier to understand and pick a team than the salary-cap version of DFS.
It’s obvious that Fantasy Feud has the potential to continue to carve out relevant market share in the DFS industry, and is still in the mix as the No. 3 operator — as it was this spring — depending on Yahoo’s commitment to its daily offering.
With relatively inexpensive avenues to acquiring customers and the ability, willingness and desire to push into new verticals, Fantasy Feud has advantages that other sites do not.
Can it leverage all of that into long-term success? Like with most of the DFS industry, we’ll have to wait and see, with this NFL season likely playing a key role in its future.