How The Pandemic Caused Innovations In The Fantasy Sports Industry

How The Pandemic Caused Innovations In The Fantasy Sports Industry

How an industry so relied on actual physical games dealt with and worked around the pandemic.

Fantasy sports in layperson’s terms is an online platform where you get to create virtual teams employing your favorite players who then compete based on their real life performances and test scores.

This became massive in India with people getting hooked to fantasy cricket league with the rise of large companies like Dream11 and Fanfight. The audience finally had the otherworldly chance to put together their dream team and which religious follower would pass out on that opportunity, right? Also, the best part? It's accurate as it worked off real-life games which allowed fans to finally put to test the field strategies they keep screaming at their idiot boxes during matches.

Dream11, a popular fantasy cricket platform was the sponsor for IPL 2020
Dream11, a popular fantasy cricket platform was the sponsor for IPL 2020Source:

The fantasy sports industry had witnessed a boom in the past few years with it being bumped up from 2 million users in 2016 to 90 million users in 2019, according to the 2020 Gameplan report. Right around 2020 when everyone was gearing up for the IPL with enormous investments being made in it, reports indicated it as the most popular sporting league in India creating 30% to 40% of the online fantasy sports platforms revenues.

Just when these platforms were gearing up for success, the pandemic struck, causing rampant cancellation across boards with major sporting events being canceled worldwide. With the economy taking a tour on the low-end, investors had low cash flow and with the games being short-term physical events, it led to a dip in customer retention as well.

What this did was cause a major rehaul of the business model where platforms now had to take multiple measures to keep users hooked and to keep money pouring in. They started with bringing in sports from different markets, instead of just focusing on cricket, they brought in basketball, football, handball, and more along with bringing new leagues that have been approved by their governing bodies such as Taipei T10 League or even the Belarus Premier League. Some of these were chosen to expose the Indian audience to a whole new market that is already finding success outside India and in other primary markets.

Along with this, they also tried to focus more on content and introduced baseball where they hosted online fantasy matches. More tournaments were announced that will be happening during the pandemic. These were key factors in not only retaining existing users but to also rope in new ones who might want to get into the game or bring out the niche audience in India who enjoyed these sports.

The official logo for the Taipei T10 league
The official logo for the Taipei T10 leagueSource:

A whole new game mode in the form of quizzing was introduced. One of the things that players enjoyed in fantasy sports, in general, was how their technical know-how of the game was put to test. Quizzing is one of those game modes that not only test knowledge across the field but also is accessible and playable by anyone and in groups as well. They work in a similar format to the main online fantasy sports games with the same fee structure. Their games also include 4-5 members and topics that are spread about and those with the highest number of correct answers win. This was seen as innovative because of how they not only kept customers but to also increase participation by female users which this did wonderfully.

This time was also taken to work on improving the user interaction and omitting features deemed redundant and listening to the needs of the users. Case in point: features that include being able to set daily limits for depositing money, how many contests can be entered, etc.

Unexpectedly, another path that is being diverged into is the streaming industry. Companies like Team11 are now acquiring exclusive streaming rights across the globe for the Taipei T10 league and also working on a series dubbed “Off the field” where sports players are interviewed to bring in the drama-hungry fans.

The sector though hit with a small blip is here to stay with modifications being done frequently to grab hold of novel audience segments. Fantasy sports in general looks like it has a promising future ahead of it with larger-than-life prospects incessantly being explored.

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