Fantasy Score could be big win for USA TODAY

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USA TODAY is making a fantasy sports play, but not with traditional style head-to-head or rotisserie style fantasy leagues. Instead, USA TODAY will launch Fantasy Score, which is a single-day fantasy game where players can choose new lineups every time they log in to play.

USA TODAY is making a platform play. If players come to set their Fantasy Score lineups, they will probably want to check a score or two. How about a click here or there to check out some of the most recent news stories or injury updates? Yahoo! Sports built a similar model that was somewhat reliant on its ability to pull in fantasy junkies. The idea: If more people come to the platform, the more likely other sites will see a halo effect.

The hardest part about creating a consistent audience is getting people through the front door. Fantasy Score could be that door. There are also multiple ways to monetize the product, including ad revenue, fees and any commissions if the business model moves more toward something like FanDuel.

There are some issues Fantasy Score may face. What pulls the casual fan into daily competitions with complete strangers? There are two big reasons people enter fantasy leagues: competition with friends, and cash prizes. Casual fans may play the game once or twice, but if there is no personal ROI, they most likely won’t come back. The reason FanDuel, DraftStreet and DraftKings have engagement is because is simple: the payouts. People play because they think they have a chance to turn $20 into $5,000. Fantasy Score won’t have that option, at least in the beginning.

Competition with friends is where Fantasy Score should focus. People should be able to compete with their friends over a season, or choose a time frame to compete (time can be set in weeks, pre/post all star break, post trade deadline etc.). Fantasy Score is starting with the NFL, although the benefits of increased traffic and increased fan engagement may actually come outside of football. This is because games are played every day in basketball, baseball and hockey.

It may seem like the easy money comes from the collection of fees, but that is a more difficult and fickle community to target as the main customer. Fantasy Score could pay higher dividends by first focusing on how much fans like to beat their friends in competition, and then keeping them clicking on USA TODAY’s digital properties.

Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.

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