Fantasy Buck Stops Hear

CDM’s court victory over MLBAM opened the door, now fantasy game properties plan to stand up to the leagues high costs. First up, CBS Interactive, who sued the NFLPA over what’s described as an inexorbitant price hike. CBS claims the NFLPA threatened to take away all fantasy rights if CBS took any action against the assocation, a bold assertion.

Fantasy sports is at a crossroads. One more lawsuit in favor of fantasy properties will give media control over information, devaluing intellectual property rights. It would deregulate the use of names and statistics for public consumption, allowing fantasy sports to operate untethered. At that point, could leagues even continue to charge media companies license fees for fantasy games, or will it become free?

CBS Interactive’s spat with the NFLPA marks the second fantasy sports controversy in as many months for CBS after it stirred the NCAA by using college player names in a fantasy game for the first time. CBS is third in the battle for fantasy supremacy, behind Yahoo and ESPN. Though the lawsuit against the NFLPA has less to do with differentiating its product, CBS wants the fantasy spotlight. They are interested in grabbing a bigger piece of a growing pie.

Fantasy users are extremely loyal, and slight product variations differentiate the companies. CBS may grab a few headlines from the NFLPA lawsuit, but few if any market share. Being ahead of the field in the college fantasy game will help grab new users, then its up to CBS to keep those users with their fantasy product. If they deliver, users will be more likely to use CBS for other fantasy sports, mainly fantasy football.

While a national fantasy trade association exists, it does not act as a consortium of fantasy games providers. As fantasy grows into big business, perhaps the major fantasy providers should form a single entity to  negotiate with leagues and handle these lawsuits. There is power in numbers. If companies come together, only for purposes of dealing with license fees and any regulations or lawsuits that arise, media companies have a better chance to reach a favorable, final industry-wide agreement.

While competition is fierce between fantasy game providers, the license fee battle will not be a differentiator, the game design and content will. Joining forces will bring this general dispute – not just the NFLPA, but all leagues – to an end, and likely in favor of the media companies.

CBS can’t be the only one dealing with exorbitant costs. The industry needs resolution, needs to draw the line for what is fair game and what’s not. What’s considered intellectual property, thus requiring licensing may become another differentiator between providers, if some decide to purchase the additional licenses. But that’s down the road, the leagues, media companies, and courts need to draw the line in the sand.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: