As the (fantasy) football season comes to a close, I reflect on how the faux sport that is now so expansive has impacted the economy and millions of lives.
Fantasy sports, football in general, are hardly a new phenomenon. Starting in the 60s, people would scour newspaper clippings and pick players on various teams to be a part of their own virtual lineup. The goal is to compile a team who will perform well in their game on the field, equating to more fantasy points to beat an opponent. The rise of the internet only helped expand an already booming subculture, and is now in the mainstream media. There are magazines, podcasts, and even TV shows that exist solely to help the average fantasy player win their leagues. Even some NFL players play fantasy football and draft themselves or peers to compete in a virtual world alongside the action that is happening to them in real life.
The reality is that fantasy sports is a real market that has real world implications. Ads that run on TV, in magazines, and now mobile fantasy applicationsare estimated to bring in $2 to $5 billion annually. What is even more astounding is that the Fantasy Sports Trade Association reports that about $11 billion is generated through fantasy football, which is actually greater than the NFL’s revenue, which is just under $10 billion. Fantasy football, essentially, is a greater economic force than the market on which it relies. This is in large part to the derivative of fantasy, which requires managers to subscribe to websites and pay fees to get a competitive advantage over the rest of their league. With stakes high in buy-in leagues, people have a reason to spend a little more to try to get a leg up on their opponents.
Although fantasy sports provide a lot in terms of economic production and consumption, they also come with some drawbacks. Unfortunately for employers, many people choose to fine-tune their lineups during business hours and summed together, it has a significant effect. A rough estimate by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. proposes that if the 20 million American workers spend one hour a week managing their team over the course of the football season, the wages being paid to unproductive workers is over $6 billion. Individual firms might not detect any difference, but it has a substantial effect when viewed from a macro lens.
The other possible downside to fantasy sports comes from spectatorship. Fantasy owners watch more games and spend more on sports in general, and now stadiums and networks cater to people who play. However, people who play fantasy football find themselves rooting for the individual players on their rosters instead supporting their favorite team. This results in less ticket sales to games and slightly less of a team fan base. But with such an expansive audience and more people playing fantasy every year, the NFL loves how it has adapted the sport.
I have long since succumbed to the allure that is fantasy football, and finally this year I am in first place at 11-2.