Fantasy Sports: A $3.6 Billion Industry and Growing

Fantasy sports have experienced a large increase in popularity over the last several years. With over 33 million players in the USA and an estimated 3.1 million in Canada, the popular pastime has turned into a billion dollar industry. Over the last five years fantasy sports have had an annual growth of 11.7%, with 47% of players paying league fees.

One of the largest drivers of the industry's revenue is the money spent on advertising and sponsorships on fantasy sports websites. With mobile internet usage increasing over the last 5 years along with the growing popularity of smart phones, more fantasy sports players are turning to their mobile devices for their fantasy needs. According to the FSTA (Fantasy Sports Trade Association - yes, this actually exists) 30% of all fantasy sports players use mobile devices to participate in fantasy sports. Of those, 69% use their mobile devices to check scores and 44% use them to change their team's lineup, make trades and conduct transactions on the go.

Fantasy football is no doubt the most popular fantasy sport, with 69% of all fantasy sports players belonging to a fantasy football league. In 2012 the FSTA reported that approximately $1.67 billion was spent on fantasy football compared to $800 million in 2008, (currently the NFL’s Oakland Raiders are valued at $825 million) meaning that the fantasy football revenue shot up 48% in just four years. Currently there are an estimated 23.8 million people playing fantasy football with Baseball and Racing behind it at 12.2 million and 7.8 million users respectively. The NFL is currently a $9.5 billion industry but its fantasy counterpart is worth almost 1/10th of that, and as the value of the NFL is expected to increase, so too is the value of fantasy football, as well as several other fantasy sports such as racing, golf and soccer.

The average fantasy sports player is an unmarried, Caucasian male in his 30’s whose earned a College degree or higher and spends roughly 18 hours consuming sports per week. According to the FSTA the average fantasy sports player spends almost 9 hours a week on managing their fantasy rosters and most have been at it for close to 10 years.

The FSTA also says that fantasy sport players spend $111 on average on league-related costs over a 12 month period. With an average of $52 per player, a total of $1.71 billion is spent on league fees alone. Add transaction, web hosting, and prize fees along with information materials and challenge games and the total value of the fantasy sports industry topples a little over $3.6 billion.

The world of fantasy sports has grown so popular it’s made its way onto the small screen. Following the exploits of six friends who participate in a fantasy football league, FX’s The League first premiered back in October 2009 and aired its 58th episode on November 20th, 2013 with a sixth season being confirmed on March 28th. The show gives viewers a look into the life of a fantasy sports player, albeit an exaggerated one, and allows those who would otherwise be alien with the culture to familiarize themselves with the rules and traditions of fantasy sports.

80% of all fantasy sports players are male. 40% are males aged 18 to 49, 38% are men aged 50 and over and 12% are males 17 and younger. Females make up a small percentage of fantasy sports players holding a 20% demographic, however as the popularity of fantasy sports grows, so does the number of women players, who so far make up 5.2 million of all fantasy sports players - not too shabby.

For some people, fantasy sports are just another way to enjoy the company of good friends in a competitive environment. Others play for bragging rights, and sometimes there might be an innocent wager between friends. Some players pay entry fees, but with the average being around $74, it’s not as though most players go into their respective leagues expecting a huge payout. Coming out on top and humiliating your friends is usually the primary goal, and the extra spending money gained doesn’t hurt.  But for those wanting to gain something more than bragging rights, there are other options available. The FanDuel Fantasy Football Championship is one of the biggest fantasy football contests in the world. In the 2013 championship, the 3rd place prize was $100,000, the 2nd place prize was $300,000 and 1st place got you $1 million and a private jet ride home.

Fantasy sports give both those who already watch sports and those who’ve never seen a game, a fun and interesting way to compete against other fantasy sports enthusiasts, whether it is for money, entertainment or bragging rights.  Currently, 13% of the United States’ and 12% of Canada’s population is made up of fantasy sports players. With the popularity of the NFL on the rise, as well as the expansion of fantasy sports such as golf and soccer, the industry continues to grow and it (along with its players) shows no signs of stopping.

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