Fantasy Football’s Very Real Digital Opportunities

If you play fantasy football — what the heck are you doing reading this? You should be checking your stats right now. If you don’t play fantasy football, you probably didn’t fully get that last sentence.

fantasyfootball_yourdonAll kidding aside, fantasy football is huge, and those sitting on the sidelines need to realize there is a very real digital ecosystem that has quietly built up around this very popular past-time, and it could change the very nature of TV viewing.

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, more than 27.7 million Americans over the age of 12 partake in some kind of fantasy sport, and they are spending $800 million year on their hobby (not including wagers placed).

While fantasy sports used to be played with a pen and paper, they’ve evolved to keep up with the times. New web tools allow people to organize and customize their own leagues., ESPN and all have “millions” of people playing fantasy football, and while they all offer free fantasy football tools, they are also making money by charging upwards of $180 per league per season for access to advanced functionality.

Hungry for stats, rabid fantasy football players are driving traffic up to these sites on non-game days as people constantly check for news and updates on their players, and it’s making football fans interested in every game — not just when their home team plays. This added attention has attraction big name advertisers paying, in effect, big money on fantasies.

Fantasy football is spreading into other sports like college football and hockey — and even non-sporting events like American Idol. This fantasization of entertainment has the potential to transform how we watch TV by giving viewers a personal stake in the outcome of of their favorite shows and those involved in making the show.

I didn’t realize just how fascinating fantasy sports were until I did some research for a longer piece on this topic over at GigaOM Pro, our subscription service. Over there I go into more details about what the big players are doing, and the opportunities some smaller startups are seizing to potentially profit from the pigskin. Plus, you can check out tons of other great in-depth feature stories and reports about the digital home and other tech topics.

Image courtesy Flickr user Ed Yourdon.