The new year began in much the same way 2015 ended for the two major daily fantasy sports sites, DraftKings and FanDuel: a mixed bag of NFL results that suggests at the moment that DFS has stabilized.
Considering the tidal wave of controversy surrounding DFS in recent months, the NFL regular season ended Sunday on a relative high note, according to a NFL Week 17 report released Thursday by DFS analytics website SuperLobby.com.
After weeks of falling entry fees, both DraftKings and FanDuel largely stopped the bleeding in the final weeks of the NFL regular season. And on the final Sunday of the regular season, FanDuel ended a falling entry fee streak for its guaranteed prize pool (GPPs) contests that lasted nearly three months.
Even as states continue to consider the future and legality of daily fantasy sports, both sites have been able to stay open in battleground states such as New York and Illinois.
All of it adds to a momentary calming in the final weeks of the NFL season.
Mixed picture for DFS in NFL Week 17
The final week of the regular season presented the same mixed picture for the two major DFS sites that has been common since late October.
After two consecutive weeks of rising entry fees, DraftKings took a step backward in Week 17. It brought in $17.5 million for all its GPPs in Week 17, which was down from $18.1 million the week before, according to SuperLobby data. DraftKings’ payouts fell, too, from $16.4 million to $15.6 million, which kept its net revenue steady at $1.8 million by increasing its effective margin to 10.6 percent from 9.7 percent.
FanDuel managed to break a streak that began in October in which entry fees for its GPP contests fell week over week. FanDuel brought in $11.6 million in entry fees for its GPPs, up slightly from $11.5 million in Week 16, according to FanDuel’s own preliminary numbers sent on Monday to Legal Sports Report.
Even better news for FanDuel is that it paid out $10.3 million to post an 11.8 percent effective margin. That is good for $1.4 million in net revenue, up from $1.3 million the week before.
Across all of FanDuel’s NFL games for Sunday, including its non-guaranteed contests (DraftKings does not release that data), FanDuel raked in $17.3 million in entry fees, which is down slightly from $17.4 million in Week 16. FanDuel paid out $15.4 million to post net revenue of nearly $1.9 million, which is a slight uptick from $1.8 million in Week 16.
Still, Week 17 offered some of the smallest prize payouts of the season across the eight sites SuperLobby tracks. This could be part of a broader trend that goes beyond legal issues, according to SuperLobby.
“Even accounting for the various issues that have affected DFS recently we believe this is part of a trend that shows the busiest time for NFL DFS is in the middle of the regular season,” SuperLobby said in its report.
A closer look at the DFS numbers
According to the SuperLobby data:
- The net revenue for DraftKings’ GPPs ($1.85 million) and all of FanDuel’s games ($1.87 million) was nearly identical in NFL Week 17.
- FanDuel posted an effective margin of 9.2 percent during the NFL’s regular season.
- DraftKings’ effective margin for the season was 8.99 percent.
- Yahoo, the No. 3 in DFS, was the only other profitable site in Week 17 by bringing in $698,233 and paying out $634,500.
Advertising for DraftKings and FanDuel
Both FanDuel and DraftKings have long faded away from the weekly iSpot.tv top 10 of television advertisers. The downtick in advertising was not because the sites pulled ads they already planned; they just never bought them, according to a story at Ad Week.
But advertising is still playing a central role in the New York attorney general’s case.
In a court filing last week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked that FanDuel and DraftKings both give back the millions in entry fees collected from New York players. His rationale is in part that the sites both used misleading advertising when they touted bonus programs that promised sizeable bonuses on entry fees. But according to the suit, a player needed to play at least $15,000 on DraftKings to unlock a promised $600 bonus.
In addition, Schneiderman charged that sites overstated the chances of winning in their advertisements.
Playoffs or bust
The NFL playoffs are ahead, which means a new slate of contests for both FanDuel and DraftKings.
DraftKings’ headliner NFL Wild Card Millionaire Maker offers a $3.5 million guaranteed prize pool and, of course, $1 million to the winner. Entry fee for the contest, which covers all four NFL games over the weekend, is set at $20. DraftKings is also offering a contest with a $1 million guaranteed pool for a $3 entry fee.
FanDuel is offering a smaller $1.25 million NFL Saturday Million for its headliner contest. The contest, which also covers games on both Saturday and Sunday, will pay $120,000 to the winner and the entry fee is set at $25. FanDuel’s $1 million Saturday NFL Rush is nearly as large, offering $100,000 to first for a $5 entry fee.
Even as the regular season turns to the NFL playoffs, the DFS industry will continue to face a tumultuous environment. We will see how much interest in DFS the NFL playoffs can generate, or if a continued shifting in public perception of DFS continues.
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