While much of the money in this space flows through the fantasy sports operators and sportsbooks, a cottage media industry has popped up to support it. Niche sites zero in on sports statistics, analyzed for specific audiences playing specific fantasy games and making specific sports bets. Troves of podcasts bring a new spin on the chatter of legacy sports talk radio. And there’s plenty of analysts — of varying repute — who sell their fantasy and sports betting picks to more casual players for hefty subscription fees.
At first, Chris Raybon wasn’t exposed to much of this, but he always played fantasy football and obsessed over stats. He worked in accounting for a tech company and, “bored out of my mind,” would read about fantasy. After reading an article on the sports analytics website numberFire that he vehemently disagreed with, he emailed the editor, who asked if Raybon wanted to start writing for them for free. Over time, Raybon started building an audience and improving his analysis, and in turn he was able to get paid more and more for his writing. Finally, he left his accounting job for a full-time position writing for the fantasy site 4for4 and helped launch its DFS coverage.
Thrust into the nascent DFS space, Raybon watched as the game’s legality was challenged. “When the legality of DFS was being questioned, it was uncomfortable for me personally,” he said. “If DFS is no more, I’m probably out of a job.” But Raybon transitioned smoothly to his new career. These days, he splits his time between writing for the Action Network, an upstart subscription media company focused on sports betting, and its sister website FantasyLabs, as well as co-hosting Fantasy Sports Radio on SiriusXM. There’s a large appetite for his analysis.
Despite the emergence of sports betting, Adam Levitan is sticking with DFS. Levitan, who has an established background writing about DFS for RotoWorld, recently launched Establish the Run, a new DFS football website, with partner Evan Silva. The model is simple: $204.99 for an entire NFL season of their analysis, top plays, rankings, and more. With an enormous following on Twitter and his popular Daily Fantasy Football Edge podcast, Levitan has made a career out of DFS.
“I like football, but I like playing fantasy and trying to outsmart people more,” he says. “I think if I didn’t play fantasy, I don’t know how much sports I would really watch. People don’t want to hear that. But I think you could be better at fantasy when you don’t care. And I think that if you follow the game from more of a data-driven perspective, you don’t get swayed by small-sample outlier stuff.”
Fantasy and sports betting has given fans new ways and reasons to watch. “I would never watch Jaguars-Titans in a million years, but if I have fantasy players in it, then of course I’m watching Jaguars-Titans,” Levitan says. “I really think without fantasy football, the NFL would not be where it is today.”
Raybon says the fantasy and sports betting worlds are the “most merged they’ve ever been” because not only is the audience the same, but many analysts — including him — use their data to forecast results in both. “For me, I have a spreadsheet and a model and I’m projecting every game and every player and every team every week anyway,” he said. “It’s the same information, it’s the same skills that are necessary.”
And in addition to the niche sites and podcasts, mainstream sports media have caught on. For fantasy ESPN has The Fantasy Show and Yahoo hosts Fantasy Football Live. And they’ve doubled down on sports betting content too: ESPN’s Daily Wager and Fox Sports’ Lock It In are just two examples. Controversial sports media company Barstool Sports announced in late January it is to Penn National Gaming, a gambling company, for $450 million, Recode reports. (Vox Media, which owns this site, has a deal between DraftKings and Vox’s SB Nation sports property.)
“I LIKE FOOTBALL, BUT I LIKE PLAYING FANTASY AND TRYING TO OUTSMART PEOPLE MORE”
Outside of media, individual retailers have gotten into the fray. , a website selling tongue-in-cheek apparel for sports fans, has its origins in fantasy sports (hence the roto- prefix) and has an of fantasy- and DFS-related merch. (One T-shirt BABIP & wOBA & xFIP & SwStr & WAR — mostly obscure but effective baseball statistics — in that .) Professional baseball players like and have recently been spotted in RotoWear shirts. ESPN host Matthew Berry runs the website, selling fantasy-related merch, including apparel and a for fantasy league losers with a toilet on it.
The thrills of DFS and sports betting are popping up in real life too — not just in terrestrial casinos and DraftKings or FanDuel-hosted tournament finals, but in bars and restaurants. The Virginia-based company Eaglestrike Fantasy Sports has fantasy kiosks in sports bars across five states and hosts live fantasy competitions too. In Washington, DC, when sports betting becomes fully operational, individual bars and restaurants can apply for special licenses to host sports betting too. It might not be long before fantasy and sports betting are a staple of the modern sports bar.