Footballguys and FanDuel have worked together for years. We were able to sit down with their head man, Nigel Eccles, who was gracious enough to answer a few questions.
Give us a magnitude of what we are watching here. How big is FanDuel right now as compared to what it was three years ago (number of players, prize payouts, staffing levels, etc).
So this year we expect to pay out around $400 million in prizes. That is up from about $10 million three years ago. In terms of team we are now hitting about 100 staff. We've invested a lot in building out our product/engineering and customer service teams.
How big is the daily space?
We estimate we own about 60-65% of the space, so in total, it's worth about $600 million in prizes this year.
How big will this space (and your share of that) get in the next few years.
We've been tripling in size each year for the last few years. Our intention is to keep growing at that rate. That would mean that in 2015 we would award over $1 billion in prizes.
Another of the early starters in this space, DraftStreet, was bought out by DraftKings clearly cementing them as your closest competitor today. What does this acquisition mean for the industry as well as FanDuel?
I've said before I thought it was a great shame that DraftStreet got bought and shut down. They were very innovative and willing to try out new features and products like snake drafts etc. There is definitely room now for one of the smaller players to step into that number 3 spot.
FanDuel had a guaranteed million dollar Week 1 NFL contest last year that was extremely well received. This year you guys have announced you will have a million dollar contest every week of the NFL season. Walk us through the decision to go this big? Are there enough players to support this kind of action every week?
We did a ton of modelling to work out whether we could cover it. We felt pretty certain we could cover it by Week 4 of the season but we weren't sure if we could do it for Week 1. In the end we felt we needed to kick off with a bang even if it costs us some money in the short run.
What other big announcements can you share about the 2014/15 football season?
Like last year I'd definitely like to see us ramp up the tournament sizes during the season. Additionally, we will be announcing the 2014 FFFC. We learned a lot from the WFBC this summer in the Cosmopolitan and are hoping to use that to make the FFFC bigger and better.
The site looks simple enough, but behind the scenes this is a complicated venture. You once told me you have a 2- to 3-person team just handling fraud. Explain a little about what goes on behind the scenes (support, infrastructure, etc) to run the biggest daily games site on the internet.
So we have around 20 people in customer service, 6 in product operations, and 3 in fraud and payment services. The CS team will handle about 60,000 customer contacts in September. Over 80% of customer emails are responded to within 30 minutes, and they have maintained a 90%+ satisfaction rating. The product operations team is responsible for pricing around 3,500 players and managing over 100 tournaments per day. We guarantee all our tournaments so if the team sizees it say 15% too large then we quickly lose money. The payments and fraud team handle several million in deposits every week. They keep a tight lid on fraud which can spiral out of control if not closely managed.
Make your best pitch to convince someone to play daily games at FanDuel. What do you offer a new player? What's the best way for them to get started?
Every day is a new day on FanDuel. Every player is interesting because even if he isn't on your line-up today, he could be on it tomorrow. That then makes every game potentially interesting. Watching those games and researching players to find value is hugely rewarding. Even more rewarding is putting that knowledge to work to compete against some of the best fantasy players in world (and sometimes the worst!). Finally, being just one touchdown away from a all expenses paid trip to Las Vegas and $1 million is mind blowing.
There are a lot of different styles of play (head-to-head, 50/50, Double Ups, Triple Ups, Matrix, 3/5/10 team leagues, GPPs, etc). Unwind all of this for our people. What types of contests do you offer and at what price entries?
Our main types of games are head-to-heads, 5- and 10-player tables, tournaments (100+ entries, also known as GPPs), 50/50s, and Double Ups. In 50/50s the top half of the table win. In Double Ups slightly less than half of the players double their money. We also introduced matrices which simulate the payout structure of playing multiple head to heads. So for example, playing a 11-man matrix is like playing in 10 head-to-head games.
For nearly all game types we offer entry fee levels of $2, $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, $200, and upwards.
Looking through the FanDuel game lobby and I couldn't help notice that there were some really big contests listed in there for this year. Is the plan to have many more high-roller types of games (50/50s, H2H) and establish FanDuel as the place to play for all the nosebleed games?
We want to offer entry levels for every wallet size. As we have grown we have seen more demand for the nose bleed levels ($1,000 plus) so we are trying to put up tournaments to meet that demand. At the WFBC this summer we had the High Roller Tournament which had a $12,500 entry fee, 25 entries, and $250,000 in prizes. As part of the entry fee you got a luxurious trip to Las Vegas. The tournament was really popular and something we would be keen to repeat for NFL.
Let's talk frankly about Condia (and other players like him that hog up a high percentage of games at every level). Is there any kind of plan to limit some of these player's actions for 2015? What efforts is FanDuel doing to preserve a healthy ecosystem that is good for all players?
Yes, we introduced limits on high volume players at the start of 2014. The reason was we found that their volume was swamping the site and smaller players wanted more opponent variety. We were actually very surprised at how well the limit was received by everyone. We review the limit for each new sport season. We also monitor the eco-system and are prepared to adjust the limit as required.
Joe Bryant and I were able to attend your big championship in Vegas last year where the winner took home a million dollars. It was among the coolest things I had ever witnessed with people vying for huge dollars and things being settled based on a late Montee Ball touchdown or a tight end hook slide to deny Foles another score. The pre-party with Jerry Rice was awesome and you took over the biggest sportsbook/restaurant in Vegas. What do you guys do for an encore this year?
The FFFC last year was a complete blast; however every year we leave thinking how do we make it bigger and better. So this summer we switched up a gear turning the DFBC event into the World Fantasy Baseball Championship which was a series of tournaments culminating in a $3 million DFBC. In addition, we have now outgrown Lagasse's and decided to build our own sports bar in a conference room in the Cosmopolitan. That event was amazing. We spent $90,000 on AV equipment alone building out five huge screens and numerous smaller ones. We had around 70 DFBC finalists and over 200 people at the event. For the FFFC we plan to build on that format.
You just launched a mobile app for the iPhone. Tell us about that. Will you have an iPad version out as well? What about people that use Android devices?
Yes, we just launched for the iPhone. In total that was over a year's worth of development. The reason it took so long was we didn't want to just clone the site for the iPhone, we wanted to take everything we have learned from desktop and build it better on mobile. What that now means is that some parts of the iPhone app are significantly better than the desktop experience which is now in catch-up.
We definitely have iPad on our roadmap. Again we want to do it right rather than fast. Currently the web version is well optimised for iPad so if we do a native version it needs to be a step change better. Android is more problematic as Google will not allow paid fantasy sports games on the Play store.
You have partnered with us this year for the Footballguys FanDuel $125,000 Championship. Explain to our readers what this contest is and how they can take part in it each week.
We wanted to run something really exciting for Footballguys readers this year. What better way to do that than let them compete against David Dodds, Joe Bryant, and Sigmund Bloom every week. I’m really looking forward to seeing what you guys are made of. Each week we will be running a $10K, 50/50 contest. It will cost $11 to enter and all you have to do is finish in the top half of the field to win money. If you manage to finish above David, Joe and Sigmund you will also qualify for the WK11 final where there will be $25K in prizes up for grabs. In total we will be paying out over $125K to Footballguys readers. You can find full details of the promotions here.
Although most of our viewership eat and sleep football, what other daily games do you offer?
We offer daily baseball, basketball, hockey, college football, and college basketball. Basketball would be the one sport I would immediately recommend for seasoned fantasy football players to try. It is fast and high scoring, some of our users describe it as the pinball of fantasy sports. Season long fantasy basketball can be a grind, but daily is fast and exciting. Also, if you follow college football, then I would definitely recommend trying fantasy college football, some many players with so many variations. There isn't as much information out there so if you are good you can have a real edge.
You had a team in the Footballguys Players Championship that had a legitimate chance to take home the title last year. Walk us through that fun.
Well pulling in Peyton Manning on the draft certainly helped. I can't claim much credit for it as my co-manager, Cameron, suggested most of the picks. To give you an idea of the balance of value in the relationship, he suggested Peyton and I suggested Eli. So we took both and then realised they had the same bye week. Duh! We did great at the start of the season and then had a great Week 1 of the play-offs. However, we didn't do so well in Week 2 and I thought we were out. I didn't even think to check Week 3 until Cameron told me were well into the money. The season was a lot of fun. I'm still a huge fan of season long fantasy football.
If someone has questions about FanDuel, where should they go for more information?
If someone has any questions about FanDuel they should email our customer support team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a fantasy customer support team here at FanDuel who will be more than happy to help you with any issues you have.
Close the deal: Why should someone play at FanDuel?
Think of how much fun you had in your last draft. Then think about how excited you were watching your fantasy team when you last made the playoffs. Now put that together, add in the prospect of winning $1 million, and you have FanDuel, every single day of the year.