In early April, it was announced ESPN would be taking in an ownership stake in DraftKings. This deal would see DraftKings paying $500 million over the next few years in advertising commitments but with the added perk that competitor FanDuel would no longer have access to advertising on ESPN platforms. Another key perceived perk of this partnership was believed to be ESPN sinking their teeth into daily fantasy editorially to help push adoption and awareness.
Many have been keeping an eye on exactly when we’d start seeing some of these changes go into effect as FanDuel had legacy ad buys that have been regularly seen on television and in fact were prominently displayed on ESPN’s fantasy baseball section. But as of yesterday, the FanDuel ads on ESPN.com seem to be winding down (although many are still on TV) and more notably SportsCenter introduced their new daily fantasy analyst, Cynthia Frelund.
Below the video of that debut and some thoughts.
While this was inevitable, it feels somewhat forced in the fact that I don’t think people are clamoring for a daily fantasy analyst on major platforms like SportsCenter. Baseball Tonight or ESPN.com sure, but to some degree it feels like ESPN’s business interest is dictating programming choices in this instance.
ESPN employing traditional fantasy analysts was a more natural emergence as the amount of people playing fantasy and seeking advice on draft strategies, waiver wire additions, or lineup decisions became common fodder for sports fans and hence ESPN was merely matching organic interest by ramping up hiring and coverage of those areas.
Are we truly at that same tipping point with daily fantasy? No, but when you got skin in the game as ESPN does now and you’re trying to chase down FanDuel while looking to get a jump on Yahoo, it’s a shrewd move… albeit one that doesn’t serve a large portion of ESPN’s audience. It should be noted that the player salaries quoted later in this segment were strictly from DraftKings as I imagine that will be the case going forward. That is something that could really give the company an edge over their daily fantasy competitors.
The other thought I had on Frelund’s appearance was how much it came off as a rehearsed informercial. While I’ve poked fun at DraftKings’ marketing strategy, which relies on screaming at you that you can get rich and by extension get girls by playing, Frelund’s more sophisticated plug for daily fantasy was essentially fifteen or so of the most buzziest words from the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference peppered out in machine gun like succession. My apologies for the heavy dose of snark, but this language is far more likely to have sports fans roll their eyes at rather than consider picking up the new hobby. Transcribed below
“Absolutely, I take a measured quantitative approach. I leverage my entrepreneurial background in the predicative analytics space and my finance pedigree including counting one of the most brilliant financial minds in Anthony Noto as my mentor and former boss. Daily fantasy is the best because I get to be an I-banker (ed note: that is short for investment banker in case you somehow don’t enjoy CNBC or subscribe to the Wall Street Journal) and a GM all at once and I get to win money every night!”
So for those of you who lack measured quantitative approaches, entrepreneurial backgrounds in predicative analytics, or finance pedigree from brilliant financial mind Anthony Noto, you’ll have to really rely on Frelund. Or you could just not play at all.