By Barry Janoff
June 14, 2016: Although under fire by legislators across the country, and admittedly in the midst of a challenging "low-water" period, participation in fantasy sports in the U.S. and Canada is at an all-time high, including some 57.4 million players, with 42.8 million people in the U.S. alone.
The figures were unveiled today (June 14) by the Fantasy Sports Trade Assn. during its 2016 FSTA Summer Conference in New York.
The figures are part of a larger fantasy sports survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, part of lottery and gaming research and consulting firm Ipsos, for the FSTA.
The survey also shows that the money spent on average by fantasy sports players has hit $556, up from $465 in 2015; that the average age of fantasy sports players is 38.5; and that the demographic breakdown is 66% male to 34% female, a rise in the number of women from 75%-25% just a few years ago.
The conference and survey coincided with reports that the two companies that have made the most noise in the daily fantasy sports category — DraftKings and FanDuel — might consider merging to better face such issues as legal proceedings, potential legislation that would but their organizations under the control of respective state political powers or gaming commissions and other challenges.
"We are at a low-water mark right now, but it is not the first time," FSTA president Paul Charchian said during his opening remarks. "Remember the dot-com crash.
"Tough times are here, but so are the customers. There are more people playing fantasy sports than ever and they are spending more money than ever. It will get better. You can weather the storm. We're going to have a better environment going forward."
According to Charchian, "The customers just want to play. Our products are going to survive. We're going to hunker down and get through a difficult time."
The 57.4 million people playing fantasy sports as cited by the Ipsos survey is up 1% from 56.8 million in 2015, and also up from 41.5 million in 2014, 35.9 million in 2011 and 19.4 million in 2007.
NFL is No. 1, with 60% of those who play fantasy sports citing an involvement with NFL fantasy platforms. MLB was second (40%), followed by soccer (30%), Nascar (26%), NBA (21%) and NHL (21%).
Soccer fantasy platforms have shown the most growth, up 52% since 2013, per Ipsos, which tracks the fantasy sports category in the U.S. and Canada and has offices in both countries.
DraftKings, based in Boston, had a significant presence at the FSTA Summer Conference, including a gold sponsorship, a booth in the lobby and T-shirts on every seat.
New York-based FanDuel was conspicuous by its lack of visible presence, which some in attendance attributed directly to the company's ongoing and intensified situation with state attorney general Eric Schneiderman, a battle that in March led to both FanDuel and DraftKings suspending play in the state.
In a letter sent earlier this month by FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles to New York state legislators, Eccles wrote that the company would relocate from New York to another state unless it again was allowed to operate in New York, according to various reports (including the New York Daily News).
Despite tremendous ad spend in 2015 by both DraftKings and FanDuel — which topped a combined $300 million, according to market, research and advertising tracker firm iSpot.TV, Bellevue Wash. — growth in the daily sports fantasy category has recently been less than overwhelming.
Although the Ipsos survey shows that the number of players involved in some form of daily fantasy sports increased from 31% in 2012 to 64%, 82% of all players play in a season-long league while just 19% exclusively play daily formats; with 17% playing both formats.
"A number of people who are on the fence about playing daily fantasy sports look at the legal situations, regulations, legislative and government involvement and decide not to get involved," said Jason Allsopp, vp for Ipsos.
DraftKings spent about $156 million on TV commercials last year, airing 25 different ads more than 46,000 times, according to iSpot.tv. Some $126.5 million was spent during the NFL season alone (August-January).
FanDuel spent about $147.5 million in 2015. Their NFL-season spend was $137.6 million.
However, most of that ad spend was during the earlier part of the NFL season. In December-January combined, DraftKings spent about $3 million and FanDuel $1.1 million during NFL broadcasts.
And, according to iSpot.tv, FanDuel has not spent any money on national ads since the beginning of February. DraftKings is still running some ads, including an MLB-fantasy spot, "New Season Every Time (pictured)."
Among other findings in the Ipsos study:
• In 18 states surveyed, 61% of consumers support a law that makes playing fantasy sports for cash prizes legal.
• 54% of consumers would cancel a league supported media service if not for fantasy sports (TV channels, satellite service, apps, etc.).
• Mobile and other emerging platforms (i.e. gaming consoles, internet-connected TV) continue to grow as the predominant way (61%) players consume fantasy.
"Tough times are here, but so are the customers. There are more people playing fantasy sports than ever and they are spending more money than ever."
• 55% of players admit they are playing more fantasy sports due to technological innovations including the ability to play on a mobile device.
• Fantasy players are more interested in sports because of fantasy, with 64% reporting they are watching more live sports because of fantasy.
"After two years of rapid growth fueled by the innovation of daily fantasy sports it's a true testament to the loyalty and passion of fantasy sports players that so many recent adoptees have become regular players," said Charchian. "Fantasy sports remains a social activity, made more enjoyable when playing with friends.
"That is why we are not surprised that the season-long game is continuing to grow comparably to the newer game formats."
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