Where Fantasy Football Players Play

One of the cool things about running FantasySP is the unique fantasy sports data that gets collected.  As you know, our users can sync their fantasy leagues into FantasySP to gain access to tools such as the Fantasy Assistant.  We support the big names: Yahoo!, ESPN, CBSSports, NFL.com, and MLB.com along with a few of the smaller websites.  So let’s find out which websites are the most popular among fantasy football players!

Before we answer that, let’s take a step back and look at the latest available numbers of fantasy players. It is widely known that the fantasy sports industry is still growing. The latest estimate is 32 million players from Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) on June of 2011.

For the sake of keeping things simple, we are going to use 32 million as our base point for the total amount of fantasy football players.  The actual number could be slightly lower (because that 32 million accounts for more than just football) or higher today.

Calculating the Website Breakdowns

To make these calculations I am going to use FantasySP sync data of over 2,000 fantasy football leagues since August 1st 2012 up until now.  I will then figure out a percentage of the pie each fantasy site gets of that 2,000.  Those percentages will then be plugged into the bigger picture of 32 million total players.  As an added bonus I will compare the same time period to 2011 to figure out how the landscape has changed, if at all.

If my data is accurate then we should see very similar numbers from year to year.  First, let’s start with 2011.

Fantasy Websites

2011 Fantasy Football Breakdown

Website FantasySP % EST In Millions
ESPN 44% 14.0
Yahoo! 38% 12.16
NFL.com 9% 2.9
CBSSports  8% 2.56
Other 1% .32

According to the data above: ESPN and Yahoo! dominate the fantasy football game and own 82% of the market.  Again, keep in mind that these numbers are just for fantasy football.  Personally, I am not shocked to see these numbers.   I have been seeing ESPN and Yahoo! league syncing consistently ahead of the other websites for several years now.  Perhaps the most surprising number is how close CBSSports and NFL.com are in terms of total football users.  After all, NFL.com just recently came onto the scene 3 years ago.

Perhaps things will change slightly for 2012?

2012 Fantasy Football Breakdown

Website FantasySP % EST In Millions
ESPN 45% 14.4
Yahoo! 32% 10.24
NFL.com 13% 4.16
CBSSports  8% 2.56
Other 2% .64

In 2012, ESPN continues to dominate and slightly added to their lead.  Yahoo! lost 6% of the market, meanwhile NFL.com gained 4%.  CBSSports remained consistent at 8%.

Two things worth mentioning. 1) Yahoo! offers an API to sync fantasy leagues and authenticate users. Despite that advantage, they still end up in second place.  2) CBSSport’s opened their own app store, which could have impacted their market share.  Especially considering the fact that FantasySP has three apps in the store.

Making Sense of the Numbers

The numbers in this post are my best estimates as to the number of fantasy football players across the major fantasy hosting websites.  I strongly believe that independent analysis of the fantasy sports industry is extremely useful to both insiders and outsiders.  I believe other sites that offer fantasy syncing will show similar numbers to back up my estimates.  (Feel free to contact me and I will update this post to reflect your findings.)

It is safe to assume that ALL websites actually gained fantasy football players year over year because the industry is still growing.  NFL.com is on pace to own a larger portion of the market as each season passes.  This is due to the fact the NFL owns it and because they are putting out a solid product that gets improvements each season.  If you haven’t tried the NFL.com product, then you are truly missing out on something special.

One thing is clear though, the industry is changing and these numbers provide some insights as to what is happening.   Three to five years ago daily fantasy games were not a big part of the industry and NFL.com fantasy games did not even exist.

I wonder where the next three to five years will take us?

Author: Brant Tedeschi

I'm Brant Tedeschi, a web developer and entrepreneur, from New Jersey with a degree in history from Monmouth University. I've been developing start-ups for the past 6 years and am the founder and lead developer of FantasySP. Follow me on Twitter or Google+

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