Fantasy Football in the U.S. is more popular than ever with more and more people putting their skills to the test every year. The U.S. fantasy sports industry as a whole, has grown from an estimated 32 million players in the US and Canada in 2010 to over 59 million in 2017. According to the Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association (FSGA), the U.S. alone had 42 million players in 2015, rising to 45.9 million by 2019.
A huge part of this growth has been driven by online fantasy sports platforms such as DraftKings Fantasy Football, who through constant innovation and advances in technology, have created a fun, accessible and easy to understand game that anyone can play.
Why is Fantasy Football so popular?
- The NFL is the most popular sport in the U.S. generating more than $15 billion in 2019, a whopping $5 billion more than Baseball and double that of the NBA and NHL. With an average of 66,000 spectators per game, it also boasts the highest average attendance per game than any other sport. That’s 16 million fans watching football in the 2019 season. So it’s no surprise that Fantasy Football is popular as everybody thinks they know better than the Coach, right?
- U.S Gambling Laws have been notoriously strict, leaving many people seeking other ways to enjoy sports and especially football. Through Fantasy Football, players can increase their game enjoyment and potentially make some (legal) money on the side.
- Accessibility has allowed gamers to play wherever and however they choose. Whether they are at the game, watching on the couch or out with friends, the use of smartphones, tablets and laptops allows players to track their team performance or make changes whenever they want.
- Fantasy Football keeps the season interesting for sports fans, right until the end, regardless of how your ‘real’ team is doing. So, just because your team didn’t make the play offs (again) players on your fantasy team will still be playing and earning precious points for you. Now every game has something riding on it.
- Technology has not only increased the accessibility of Fantasy Football, but it has allowed platforms to increase their game offering and provide access to all important game strategies and research.
- The growth of social media has seen an explosion in content specifically aimed at fantasy football, with lots of NFL fantasy channel’s available to advise or discuss a multitude of topics. This explosion in YouTube channels, podcasts, Twitter and many other social media outlets, has fuelled fantasy football’s growth. The constant conversation fuels interest in the game and allows fans to make informed decisions and join in the discussion, creating a community and social buzz around the game.
- Bottom line, we all think we can do a better job than the coach. Fantasy football let’s us prove it.
Can Fantasy Football continue to grow?
A recent report estimated that the global fantasy football industry is expected to be worth over $1 billion by 2026, with over 70% of those players located in the U.S.
As the NFL continues to try and push football to a wider audience, including hosting several games a season in London, England. These new global fans are all potential Fantasy Football players.
Technology will also continue to improve, and operators will continue to innovate and enhance their offerings to customers. Better data collection will allow better marketing of the fantasy game and in turn enhance player retention. Improved technology and smart phone usage will also increase accessibility, opening the game up to even more players.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, that had limited sports betting to Nevada alone. This allowed individual states to pass laws to legalize gambling, and by 2019, as many as 17 states had passed laws to do just that. More states are still in the process of working through legislation and it is expected that most states will follow suit.
The relaxation of these state gambling laws has led some people to predict a reduction in the appeal of Fantasy sports, but FSGA research does not back this up.
- In 2018 they discovered that 79% of fantasy players said there is at least a good possibility they’d bet on sports if and when a bill is passed to legalize it in their state.
- Currently, 19% of Americans aged 18+ participate in sports betting. And 19% of Americans aged 18+ participate in fantasy sports.
- 78% of fantasy sports players bet on sports in 2018. And 75% of sports bettors played fantasy sports in 2018.
The reality is, that so long as the NFL continues to thrive and grow, so too will fantasy football. The growth of one impacts positively on the growth of the other, and together they enhance people’s enjoyment of the game. With the NFL growing to a 17-game season and overseas expansion expected to continue with a UK franchise in the pipeline, fantasy football looks set to continue its popularity.