Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The DFS “Boom”

Heard on the radio what I thought to be a remarkable statistic today regarding the fantasy sports site DraftKings and its ubiquitous advertising campaign. Went looking online afterwards to find out more, and found’s list of the “Top 10 Spenders in TV Advertising this Week.”

That’s a screenshot of the top of the list at left (click to embiggen). Over the last seven days, DraftKings has spent more on TV ads than anyone else in the U.S. -- a whopping $16,488,346 on 4,910 commercials. Also in the top 10 at No. 7 is DraftKings’ biggest DFS rival FanDuel who spent $11,467,852 on 2,710 ads.

In truth, the last seven days haven’t been the biggest for DraftKings of late. During the first week of September they spent over $24 million on 6,749 TV ads, according to Legal Sports Report. That article points out how DK had suddenly ramped things up here with the start of the football season, having spent about $82 million during the first eight months of the year. There’s more than TV ads, too, of course, as anyone listening to the radio or surfing online well knows. I’d estimate they’ve already spent more than half that total here in September alone.

The stat I heard on the radio, though accompanied by some of these figures having to do with the amount DK has spent on ads, was a different one -- namely, that over the last week more than 1 million had opened new accounts on DraftKings.

This New York Post article from yesterday notes how DraftKings had 1 million users total back in April, so a gain of a million more this week is something else. With the recent surge, DK now has 4.5 million accounts. It’ll be interesting to learn how many it has by the end of the month.

For those of us who were playing online poker every day over a decade ago, all of this seems more than vaguely familiar. That the law that led to the eventual destruction of the game for American players -- the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 -- in fact today serves as a kind legislative linchpin around which the fantasy sports phenomenon currently revolves suggests another connection of sorts, in an ironic way. (See this interactive timeline of DFS history, with the UIGEA marking the industry’s origin.)

The online poker “boom” saw a game that had already been played for nearly two centuries suddenly explode in popularity over just a few years, not long after the internet had become part of all of our lives. Televised poker -- in particular the first World Poker Tour shows and ESPN’s World Series of Poker coverage from 2003-2005 (discussed some yesterday) -- contributed mightily to the game’s growth, too.

Online poker attracted many live poker players, a segment of those who enjoyed other kinds of gambling, and a lot of others who didn’t otherwise play poker or gamble at all. It also drew in a few sports fans lingering after the game had concluded to watch the WSOP shows.

Meanwhile “fantasy sports” per se has been around for just a few decades, more or less starting with those “rotisserie” baseball leagues in the late 1970s and 1980s (a tiny, tiny niche), then growing in popularity more recently with the season-long contests and leagues. The “daily” games only began popping up over the last few years. The first DFS site to launch (Fantasy Sports Live) came online in June 2007. FanDuel started up in July 2009, while DraftKings staged its first contests in January 2012.

The online poker ads were pretty frequent back during the “boom,” but I’m going guess none of the sites ever came anywhere near to topping biggest ad spenders lists the way DraftKings has over the last few weeks. Would be curious to learn how much the poker sites did spend on TV ads back in the day, and try to draw some meaningful (adjusted) comparisons.

The DFS growth is getting noticed by legislators. One -- Frank Pallone, Jr., a Democrat Congressman from New Jersey -- just this week requested the House Energy and Commerce Committee on which he serves to look into the legality of fantasy sports. There’s one more thread that will be interesting to follow. Other less-than-sanguine stories about the DFS are circulating now, too, including several about how hard the game can be for the casual players and others about how everyone is growing tired of all the damn ads.

I’ve mentioned here before several times how no matter how I try, I just can’t make myself get that interested in playing DFS. But I can’t help but be interested in the fast-moving story of DFS at present.

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Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

Watching poker on TV is what got me interested in poker. It was fun to watch. In fact, I would watch reruns where I knew the outcome already! Mike, Vince and Shana were the nuts.

9/17/2015 12:59 AM  

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