DraftKings CEO Jason Robins dropped quite a bit of news Friday on the RotoGrinders podcast with host Dan Back. Among the biggest were the announcements that DraftKings will soon be offering eSports fantasy contests, and that the site plans to be live in the United Kingdom in October.
DraftKings secured the necessary gambling licensure in the UK last month, but details about what the company might offer abroad have been scant since then. Aside from the target launch date, Robins shared that player pools will be shared between UK and US players, which likely means UK players will have access to the same contests offered stateside, and should create the opportunity for larger contests.
The full podcast can be accessed here. We’ll breakdown some of the highlights below.
DK in the UK
We’ll probably be launching in mid to late October in the UK. We do have to do some work to localize the experience a little bit, make sure people see pounds, and things like that, instead of dollars.
It will absolutely be pooled liquidity. We’re trying to build something from scratch, country to country. I think it’s really interesting when you can enter a market like the UK … with millions and millions in prizes and millions of people playing, it will be a lot more successful at getting people to try and remain on the platform. … it’s always better to be bringing in people from larger population sets, total, than from smaller ones.
DraftKings going global
As far as what else beyond the UK, I think definitely Europe, and then Asia will be more of a focus, and then Latin America to follow up. Because I think it can be popular there, but there are some challenges around payments that exist in Latin America. But ultimately, we do want to be a global company in every continent but Antarctica. Australia, too, I should mention. We’ve looked at that, but we don’t know yet exactly what the landscape is like there. But I think it could be a really interesting market.
You probably saw too that we’ve launched a lot of new sports that are popular, like soccer. We’ll be looking at others, too, like cricket and rugby next year, as well.
Robins made the initial announcement that DraftKings would have an eSports offering “very soon.” Shortly after, the site released more details via its Playbook blog.
eSports are organized multi-player video game competitions and have been growing rapidly. Currently, two eSports-specific sites—Vulcun and AlphaDraft—dominate the DFS side of the industry. FantasyHub launched a beta test for eSports contests during the summer, but DraftKings would be the largest provider by a wide margin.
“eSports may be the fastest-growing category in all of sports,” Robins said on the RotoGrinders podcast. “Anything where you can fill arenas like Madison Square Garden and Staples Center … why can’t you have a great fantasy game, too? I think fantasy will be the natural evolution of the eSports world.
“I think eSports is going to be potentially the largest sport in the world in the next decade, and it’s definitely something we’re very aggressively pursuing.”
Golf has been one of the fastest-growing sports in daily fantasy over the last year, spurred, in part, by the Millionaire Maker contests DraftKings held for each major tournament this year.
A frequent complaint voiced by users, however, is the amount of lineup duplication that occurs in large DFS golf contests. Robins said he’s aware of the issue and hopes to have a solution so that contests for golf can grow larger.
I think we’ve got to figure out if we can do some salary adjustments there to make there be a little less overlap. I don’t know if we can consider that yet; we haven’t done enough analysis. When it comes time to set the next contest up for the next major, which will be the Masters in April, probably after that we’ll do some analysis on whether some salary adjustments and other things we can do so it can grow larger and have less lineup overlap. And if not, then we’ve got to figure it out.
Another issue that draws the ire of some DFS players are the top-heavy payout structures often seen in large contests, which often payout less than 20 percent of the field and skew dramatically to winners. At least one site—FantasyDraft—has grown quickly by touting its flatter payout structures, which reward at least 25 percent of entries in every guaranteed contest on the site.
Robins admitted that to some degree the structures at DraftKings are intended to grab attention, and said he’d like to move away from that format over time.
If you look at the live final structure, it’s actually a little bit different than the typical GPP. Usually with the smaller-field games and the qualifier games, the ratio is a little bit different. I think this is still probably a little bit more top-heavy than we’d like to be in the long run.
If you look at most of the GPPs we’ve been running … the Millionaire Maker last year, for example, $2.2 million with $1 million to first. This year we’re doing $10 million guaranteed with $2 million to first. That’s just in general been the way that we want to move. But I think that it’s a progression, and having the most appealing top prize is an important part of the draw … given that (this year’s NFL live final) is going to be on TV, we wanted to just put a number out there that would get our broadcast partners like ESPN excited, and still leave room to distribute a lot of great prizes to other people.
On the NFL live final
DraftKings recently announced the details of this year’s NFL live final. Part of the revamped format will include a televised broadcast on ESPN. Robins didn’t divulge many details on that front.
As far as how it came about, it was something that came about—just the concept of televising a live final on a major broadcast network was something that we’d talked about pretty much from Day 1, since we started DraftKings. That’s where we felt like the industry was going, and felt like if we could be the first there, it would be a difference maker as far as mainstream interest and market leadership.
The concept was the brainchild of my co-founder, Matt Kalish. … Matt came up with this concept, the fantasy football world championship televised by ESPN. There are a lot of components to it. I don’t want to steal his and the rest of the team’s thunder … some of it is still being worked out in brainstorms and conversations with ESPN folks about a few ideas. We’ve thrown a few things out there, but I would get in big trouble if I stole their thunder, so I’m not going to say exactly what it’ll be, but I think it will be a real milestone for the industry. …
About all those ads
The DFS marketing deluge unleashed on television viewers over the last few weeks reached new levels last weekend during the opening week of the NFL. Their ubiquity was not universally well-received.
For the critics, Robins has some bad news. The ads are working and DraftKings will pour them on until they’re not.
…we’re a very metrics-driven, analytic company, so as long as it’s working and bringing in new customers, and we’re in a battle to be the largest daily fantasy site out there, it’d be kind of silly to stop doing something that’s bringing in hordes of new customers—or even slow down when it would reduce the number of daily fantasy players that we’re able to get onto DraftKings. … If we were seeing it slow down in the numbers, we would pull back, but we’re not. In fact, just the opposite is happening; it’s working better than ever. …
The other thing I’ll add to this is daily fantasy in general and DraftKings has a very small window during the year when advertising can work this effectively. It’s not a year-round thing. If we had a little bit longer period of time, I think we might be a little bit slower and steadier, but if you only have a short window, you have to fish when the fish are biting.