Participation in fantasy sports has become inseparable from traditional sports viewership. For many, agonizing over free agents in an organized fantasy league is as integral to the morning routine as pouring coffee into a to-go thermos. Just as drip coffee evolved into a multi-itemed Starbucks' order, so has participation in fantasy leagues.
The modern approach to fantasy sports pits player-against-player for cash rewards. Emergent website FanDuel has reimagined conventional fantasy sports - hanging its hat on both simplicity of use and daily, winnable contests. These changes, however, arrive with proposed legislature regarding sports betting. The inevitable adoption of nationwide sports betting blurs the lines between the $18 billion annually spent on fantasy sports and $140 billion on real sports. Amidst the proposed changes, the NBA demands a 1% “integrity fee” for all NBA-related wagers. The MLB has followed suit by proposing a monetized wagering model akin to the NBA’s ask – although some critics worry the demands may setback proposed legislation.
The NBA is no stranger to staying ahead of with cultural trends. First, the Brooklyn Nets entered an exclusive partnership with FanDuel in 2014, including events such as “FanDuel Night.” Second, NBA franchises have entered the esports arena by purchasing franchise spots in the North American League of Legends Championship series. In particular, League of Legends has emulated much of the successes of traditional sports: streaming weekly games and official sponsorship on jerseys is identical to changes made by the NBA. Most notably, Riot Games (creator of League of Legends) developed their own official fantasy website to engage viewers.
Internationally, the growth of esports has resulted in recognizing esports players as professional athletes and the Executive Director of the Olympic Channel noting, “…we cannot ignore the phenomenon of esports.” Emergence of NBA involvement in esports combined with the legality of sports betting creates the perfect storm looming over the world of fantasy sports. Declining NFL ratings and MLB attendance opens the door for esports viewership and new in-person esports venues, respectively. Vegas odds-makers have begun setting their eyes on Overwatch League just as they have on college football matchups. Watercooler talk may be centered around which Twitch streamer will win the PUBG tournament sooner rather than later.