College’s Reality; To Take Fantasy Or Not?
A few weeks ago as the Daily fantasy business mushroomed with the start of football season, many were wondering if North America’s second-largest sports property, college football, would be prime for growth. Companies like DraftPot, a step below the behemoths FanDuel and DraftKings, were offering up games and looking to activate on college campuses to find ways to get more millennials involved on busy weekends, and why not pull in DFS college games at the bigger schools as well.
On the revenue side, the NCAA has been anti-fantasy, which did not stop small games from being launched using college data, but it did prohibit major schools with massive following from officially engaging in college-specific DFS. What it did NOT do was stop colleges from taking broadcast advertising revenue from the massive troves of DraftKings and FanDuel, who continue to mine the football and sports crazy world for more subscribers. Will all of that change?
At the annual meeting of the Division I Athletic Directors Association in Dallas on Tuesday, many NCAA leaders spent time discussing the legality of DFS and how to best handle a practice that the federal government deems legal, but the NCAA universally considers a threat to the integrity of college sports.
While NCAA bylaws prohibit any kind of fantasy engagement, a 2013 NCAA survey of student athletes found that 20 percent still participated in some kind of fantasy sports. The recent spend by DFS has raised more issues with college administrators, with Larry Scott, the Pac-12 Commissioner being the first to potentially say no on a conference level to the ad dollars coming in from DFS if that company offered college games in addition to tis advertised NFL, MLB and NBA products.
However while the rhetoric flies, only the SEC Network has actually pulled its daily fantasy ads, but even that move may not be more than window dressing. ESPN, which owns and operates the SEC Network, has a lucrative and exclusive deal with DraftKings and has been its most public ambassador of advertising, with a multitude of ads and multi-platform branding efforts.
There also is the question of revenue. While major conferences bask in the glow of College Football Championship money, those outside the big five need new streams of income, and DFS advertising dollars thus far have been too big, and too valuable to ignore for broadcast. Like other “vices,” beer for example, where there was a hard line once, the line is now blurred, and with the changing legal battle that line may also blur with college athletics and fantasy.
Integrity as a stance by the NCAA s one thing, whether the dollars can meld that integrity will be another.