Millennials have grown up predicting player performance not team performance

Adam Wexler, CEO of Performance Predictions, warns sportsbook operators they need to offer more than just moneylines and totals

Considering legal sports betting has not been a part of American culture for the majority of the country, fantasy sports has largely filled the void. According to Ipsos research, the domestic fantasy sports market has grown from 500,000 people in 1988 to a staggering 53.5 million in 2017. Millennials have grown up right alongside the fantasy sports industry over the last 30 years.

Both fantasy sports and sports betting are mechanisms for increasing fan engagement. Compared with other markets, Americans are obsessive about statistics.

While the daily fantasy category has been around since the mid-2000s, season-long fantasy has been present in American culture since the mid-20th century. Fantasy leagues have been woven into American culture for decades and offer a great way for friend groups to keep up even as their lives go in many different directions.

As season-long fantasy players prepare for fantasy drafts, friend circles are less inclined to talk about which professional teams will make the Super Bowl and more inclined to talk about who they are drafting with their #1 pick in their fantasy league.

Estimating fantasy player performance is comparable to predicting a number of player props (e.g. touchdowns scored, rushing yards, etc), so the fantasy consumer must soak up a wide variety of information across a host of sites in the fantasy sports ecosystem. Unlike sports betting where you can hone in on specific teams or a particular stat of a player, fantasy sports requires consumers to crunch a number of statistics to develop predictions for fantasy point totals.

As fantasy football draft day rolls around, league participants will have formed their own opinions on the stars, but the depth of their knowledge also extends to the lesser known players. Typical fantasy football league rosters often include approximately 15 selections, meaning 180 players selected in the standard 12-team leagues. As you can imagine, this means there is a lot of players to keep up with, and it does not even include any of the players fantasy teams claim as ‘free agents’ throughout the season.

Considering there is much consensus on the top 20 players, the fantasy league championship is often won via predicting breakout years from the lesser known players. As an example, Patrick Mahomes, quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, was often selected in the 8th round of standard 12-team leagues this year. By the end of the NFL season, he was the highest scoring fantasy player and was owned in 62% of the top leagues on Yahoo! Sports this year.

While a player like Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards and helped carry the Dallas Cowboys to the playoffs, he did not necessarily carry as many fantasy teams to their fantasy league playoffs. Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams gained almost 200 yards less (1,434 versus 1,251), but scored 17 touchdowns compared to only six from Elliott. Because fantasy football points are largely rooted in touchdowns, Gurley was on three times the number of top Yahoo fantasy teams than Elliott.

With the NBA and NHL in the middle of their regular seasons and MLB Opening Day around the corner, the 53,500,000 fantasy players in the United States are predicting player performance year-round.

As we witness the proliferation of legalized sports betting across the US in the next few years, internationally based companies would be wise to understand how the American consumer has been raised as a fan of their favorite sports when building custom user interfaces. While there exists a thriving black market for sports betting, fantasy sports has been the more dominant market domestically and the American millennial has grown up predicting player performance more than team performance.

Adam Wexler, CEO of Performance Predictions

Adam Wexler, CEO of Performance Predictions

DFS | Product