Fantasy Sports: why do companies provide communication tools for their players?

Watchers
9 min readMay 4, 2023

We took a deep look into fantasy sports and gathered different companies who provide community tool to allow users communicate while gaming and tried to estimate if are social tools helpful for the business.

In fantasy sports, enthusiasts can take on the role of a team owner and make decisions such as cutting or signing players, as well as engaging in trades. Points and rankings are awarded based on the actual performance of the athletes during their games. For some, this offers a virtual reality experience of being a team owner and is popular among passionate fans.

​​©Telegraph India

Simply speaking, the player is the coach and owner of the team. Every fan desires to be the one, and finally, in fantasy sports, you can gather in one team Messi, Ronaldo, and Holland. Fantasy sports are obviously connected with fantasy games: both are about imaginary worlds: you can control what is happening, but at the same time, this reality contains not dragons and dwarfs but real athletes.

The definition by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association:

“A game where participants act as owners to build a team that competes against other fantasy owners based on the statistics generated by the real individual players or teams of a professional sport.”

Fantasy sports is a phenomenon that has been getting bigger since the end of the ninetieth. According to a study by the Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association (FSGA) in 2021, there are currently over 60 million fantasy sports players in the United States and Canada, with the majority of them playing on mobile apps. The FSGA also reported that the fantasy sports industry has consistently grown in recent years, with the number of players increasing by 6% from 2019 to 2020.

Yet, not only the American market, of course. Last year’s report by Deloitte showed that the bright rise in the fantasy sports market is happening in India:

“The Indian Fantasy Sports (FS) Industry has experienced significant growth over the past few years. With a market size of over INR 34,000 crore (1 crore means ten mln), buoyed by strategic investments, the industry now caters to over 13 crore registered users. Over a span of five years, the industry footprint has grown to become the largest in the world and customer acquisition is only ramping up in this sports-obsessed nation.”

Even players themselves ask each other through Quora and Reddit: why is it so popular? And sometimes add to each other quite deep explanations, like this one:

“First, I think it’s a way for us older, chubbier, out of shape, uncoordinated, less physically gifted guys to have something to compete in and possibly win. Most people like to compete, but when you are middle-aged with two bad knees, most actual sports are no longer viable for you.

I look at Fantasy Football similar to Trivia Contests — they are a mental challenge. Even a guy totally paralyzed can play fantasy football and win because it only requires knowledge, analysis, and a little luck.

Secondly, there is a social aspect to it too. I know leagues where many of the owners meet up to watch Monday Night Football, eat, and drink a few beers while hanging out with their friends and rivals.”

Communication through the fantasy sports

Community chats in fantasy sports apps are generally viewed as a helpful feature that allows users to connect with other enthusiasts, discuss strategies, and share insights. While opinions may vary, many users appreciate the social aspect of these chats and find them helpful in improving their overall experience with the app. Because fantasy games allow users to analyze and make decisions daily, they need much advice — about different plates, leagues, and statistics. So, community chats become a place to find soulmates and fantasy sports-mates to discuss the whole process, especially successes, and failures. Everybody who watches sports knows these players, but nobody knows they are on the same team inside your app.

The fantasy sports companies also find community chats valuable because they increase retention — users can discuss their decisions and spend much more time in-app, avoiding messengers. Also, they can provide sponsorship deals, and if these apps contain betting opportunities, they also increase revenue.

What’s else important, users who gather other players around their teams won’t change the platform to keep their audience.

We observed different fantasy sports apps and websites and their community features — how they work, what users think about this experience, and whether these companies plan to develop a communication approach.

RotoWire

RotoWire is a mobile app that provides real-time sports news, expert analysis, and customizable draft kits for fantasy sports leagues. It covers various sports, including football, basketball, baseball, hockey, golf, and soccer. The app also offers lineup optimizers, player rankings, and other useful features to help users make informed decisions when managing their fantasy teams. Yet also they have a robust approach to communication.

They have a chat for subscribers, which you can join via the link, but this chat is located in Discord. So, as a user, you are gaming in the app while communicating with other RotoWire users via other platforms. | It’s totally understandable why RotoWire created this chat — to build the community around the platform. Still, the weakest thing is that they are building this community using an outside app. Chats on Discord are available for subscribers only.

Also, RotoWire uses other ways to stay in touch with the audience, e.g., podcasts.

FanDuel

FanDuel is one of the biggest fantasy sports platforms in America. There are not only chats for everyone on the app, but also private chats only for participants of the league. With Friends Mode Chat, users can send messages to the whole particular league — right from the FanDuel app. As FanDuel says it, ‘use it to remind your league-mates to enter a contest or to remind them who’s #1'. It’s a point: users tend to share their success.

This idea of communication while playing seemed to the co-founders of FanDuel so promising that they left the original company to launch the Flick app, which was created for users for communication only (for those users who don’t have chats in their favorite apps). One of their first cases was an attempt to provide a place for communication for the audience of sports influencers (e.g., popular football fans). Then they focused on the audiences of betting and trading platforms.

RotoBaller

Founders describe this platform as a ‘pioneer of built-in community chats among fantasy sports ones.’ They launched the first chat in 2012; since then, users can discuss every league on the platform. If these chats are available for all subscribers, their chats on Discord (yep, again, Discord) are positioned as premium ones.

The cause for that can be based on that fact that their in-app chats are quite simple and old-fashioned when the discord chats are reached and allow people to communicate in different ways.

ESPN

Initially, as you know, ESPN, or Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, is a sports channel, a part of the Walt Disney Company structure. Yet the ESPN community plays a really important role, providing a plethora of features for viewers. Since 1998 they have run the game industry.

Soon they start to work with fantasy games, and it’s quite transparent — viewers watch games and choose players for their fantasy leagues. Besides the draft kit, they have chats, fantasy blogs, and ESPN fantasy podcasts. Quite enough tools to communicate, isn’t it? Users can join many chats or only one from any service page. Also, they can send stickers, GIFs, and reactions.

DraftKings

DraftKings can be called social draft kings — they provide social betting and social fantasy sports. We’ve already talked about them as a betting company, and now it’s time to say a bit about the fantasy sports direction of DraftKings. But it’s not a correct approach to split these two directions — because DraftKing uses its successful experience in both. So, they grabbed the powerful private group chats from fantasy games and added them into betting, launching group betting. Also, DraftKing seriously set its sights on competing with Twitter — and turned its platform into a social one.

DraftKings’ CPO Corey Gottlieb likes to say: “Community is what made fantasy gaming so popular,” said DraftKings chief product officer Corey Gottlieb. “So we thought to ourselves, ‘Why hasn’t anyone digitized the experience you have with your friends when you are thinking of betting on something socially?”

After introducing social features, the company showed excellent results: 175% revenue growth for Q1. Monthly unique payers climbed 114% to 1.5 million for the quarter. Now, they plan to add live streaming to allow players to create their own real-time broadcast of wages they place.

Yahoo Sports Fantasy

Another giant with a huge fantasy sports area also found the video streaming feature promising. In 2021, they launched video chat for private leagues (4–12 teams in a league), but they got rid of it in a year. Users still tried to find the causes of it by creating Reddit threads and Youtube discussions, but Yahoo didn’t explain it officially.

Seems like Yahoo is looking for the best options changing the feature set all the time. So, this year they removed messenger boards (something like posts with opportunities to comment), which disappointed users because that was a great tool to boost communication. Users requested Yahoo to return a feature actively. According to Yahoo Fantasy Tech Support, they have done it to turn Fantasy Chat into a place for primary communication on the platform. Instead of refused features, they added (or planning to add) threading, pinning, and polls to Fantasy chats.

Dream11

One of the biggest fantasy sports platforms in India, Dream11, also launched a chat feature and did that with big numbers. Their private chats can contain up to 20 thousand users at once, which means the whole users of one league can communicate simultaneously.

«With Supergroups, Dream11 can engage thousands of users in the same private group chat, letting large communities of fantasy sports enthusiasts bond over moments of play together and drive real-time engagement», commented Rahul Mirchandani, CPO at Dream11, the launch.

Stadium Live Studios

The company from Canada launched in 2020, specializes in the younger audience building the service for Gen Z users.

“The sports industry has been really slow at adapting to a new generation of fans. The industry hasn’t found a good way to engage with them,” co-founder and CEO Kevin Kim to TechCrunch.

Sure, because many of their users are younger than 18 years, the platform doesn’t work with betting, and their main direction leads to general socialization around sports and fantasy sports. Their users build fandoms based on sports interests. They can customize their profile, buy digital goods, earn XP by drafting teams during live matches and sports streams, create a group with friends, join polls, and just chat with others. So, Stadium Live Studios wants to be a social media for youngsters, combining all popular social media tools. Now they are adding watch parties and videos like TikTok and reels to the platform.

Who knows wins

Welsh platform Who Knows Wins is a social game centered around sports where friends, family, and coworkers can compete against each other for both cash prizes and bragging rights. It’s a free app; users can create their custom league and play directly with their friends or join one of the existing competitions with a thriving community of players.

Do you want to figure out what will make your platform more reach and attractive to users — whether chats, audio broadcasts, or engagement widgets? Please, contact our sales manager or book a meeting through our website.

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