Can College Football Carve A Fantasy Niche?
College football, especially amongst the five power conferences, continues to be a media and broadcast ratings bonanza in the United States, and with the next round of college football playoffs on tap for January, there is no sign of the interest and the passion for the game slowing down. So is DFS ready to take advantage of the college game, like it is with the NFL?
The results so far appear to be mixed. While both FanDuel and DraftKings will again offer DFS college games, and a host of smaller players are trying to get in the mix, the uncertainty of knowing great amounts about the players in conferences below the majors has made college football fantasy a bit of risk for both the games operator and the player. However with more and more niche sites dedicated to stats and info. On every school from Army to Kent State, those options may be changing, and the growth of DFS as a property makes college football’s craziness all the more appealing going forward.
“It was one of the first sports we ever added on DraftKings,” said company co-founder and chief revenue officer Matt Kalish told FoxSports.com earlier this month. “There’s millions and millions of college football fans in the U.S. You see SEC stadiums packed with 90,000 fans every Saturday, Michigan Stadium 100,000 every week. We would not be doing our job if we didn’t provide an experience for those fans.”
“Daily fantasy in general attracts a younger audience of millennials, which has a natural overlap with college fans,” FanDuel co-founder and chief product officer Tom Griffiths added through a company spokesperson in the same article. “They prefer the shorter-form games with lower commitment, so as we grew, we saw strong demand from our existing audience for college sports, and we responded to that.”
There is also a cultural difference in college sports that is less of a hindrance in the NFL, as fans side with their favorite school much more than they would, say, an NFL team on a whole in fantasy. Finding Alabama fans who will take Auburn players in DFS might be much more of a struggle, and casual fans might just want to play a whole Notre Dame lineup vs. mixing it up. Still even with that issue, the amount of scoring, a key element for DFS success, is much higher in college football as teams pile up the points, making the opportunity for fun game play very strong for those who know the game and do their homework.
Unlike the NFL to some extent, and the NBA and MLB to a larger extent, the NCAA has game strongly against any fantasy partnerships for schools, teams and athletes, which can again make DFS play a challenge. However statistics are easy to come by, and with the major players in fantasy invested in the games, the opportunities for casual play, even for money, remains really high. Also the continued expansion of college football on to broadcast almost every night of the week can give the avid football fan even more opportunities to play on nights and days when there is no NFL going on, giving college football fantasy even more of a leg up going forward.
Are there hurdles to be overcome and will the games come close to the attention of the NFL on fall weekends? Probably not. However there is plenty of data, personality and passion in college football, and with simpler games becoming the norm, the rise of college football fantasy could be coming.