As impressive as the explosive growth of daily fantasy sports was six months ago, the plummet of the industry could be equally remarkable. Data leaks called the integrity of the games into question and invited intense scrutiny, notably from state governments (notably in New York and Massachusetts) and federal investigators asserting that DFS was a form of gambling and should be banned in their respective regions.
Since then, it’s been an expensive fight for industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel, trying to convince players and legal challengers of their legitimacy. On Tuesday, with a Frontline documentary on daily fantasy sports set to air on PBS in partnership with the New York Times and its exclusive partnership with ESPN collapsing, DraftKings was dealt a significant blow.
Fox Sports made what was viewed as an “imperative” investment in DraftKings last July, bankrolling a $160 million commitment to the company that was crucial in funding its massive ad-buying campaign. But in its quarterly earnings report on Tuesday, Fox announced that it marked down the value of that investment by 60 percent. Over a period of approximately six months, the value of that investment had dropped by $95 million.
Fox: a portion of $160M investment in DraftKings was impaired and recorded a loss of approximately $95 million during 3/6 mos ended 12/31/15
— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) February 9, 2016
According to its filing with the SEC, Fox said its markdown was “based on information concerning DraftKings’ current valuation in a recent financing transaction,” leading the company to determine that “a portion of its investment in DraftKings was impaired and recorded a loss of approximately $95 million.”
In addition to the expensive legal battles in various states (including California, New York, and Illinois) and calls for government regulation, DraftKings is also dealing with payment processors (who pay customers their winnings) seeking to pull out of agreements and a marked decrease in user growth since early September. The ability of the company to expand its business relationships and user base would obviously be severely curtailed if various states determine that daily fantasy games aren’t legal and its sources of funding dry up.
Sports Business Journal‘s Eric Fisher reports that potential new investors in DraftKings have been rumored. Regardless, with these latest developments, any round of investing figures to be significantly down from the $300 million that the company reportedly raised back in July, and another $200 million that was raised in the late summer, before the backlash against daily fantasy had begun.
DraftKings’ value has obviously experienced a major drop since then, likely forcing the company to seek additional funding from investors or even a bank. That is probably the “recent financing transaction” that Fox referred to in its SEC filing, which led to discovering the much lower valuation.
Disney now looks quite smart for pulling out of its $250 million investment in DraftKings, and Fox can’t possibly have thought it would be in the red on its investment just six months later. How much has changed during that span for DraftKings? And will the company be at all recognizable another six months from now, in light of these new developments?