Next to the CBS Sports banner at the top sat an in-house advertisement for fantasy football, blaring “Only 3 days until kickoff — get your team now!” Underneath, a massive red ad promoted the site’s fantasy football premium games. Those scrolling down further could find a section devoted to fantasy writers. Another, more subdued ad for fantasy football premium games was nearby. Closing in on the bottom of the home page, four links sponsored by the likes of T-Mobile and GMC promoted (you guessed it) fantasy football.
Is it any wonder the site — once known as CBS SportsLine.com — waited three years after CBS purchased it outright from SportsLine to switch its name to CBSSports.com, owing to fears, according to reports, of losing fantasy business since the SportsLine name was so attached to the genre?
Welcome to the ever-growing world of fantasy football. More than 19 million people play fantasy sports in U.S. and Canada, according to numbers released in August by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. Football comprises the majority, around 14 million. Major Web sites, such as the aforementioned CBSSports.com and giant ESPN.com, cater to players by offering leagues and fantasy columnists, as do hundreds of lesser-known sites. And it’s not just for men. Women comprise about 15 percent of fantasy players.
On Sept. 8, about 1,200 teams in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Orlando participated in the draft for The World Championship of Fantasy Football, where more than $1 million will be handed out by season’s end.
The National Football League has jumped in as well. The league’s Web site, NFL.com, features fantasy leagues and writers and even puts out a fantasy preview magazine. Though it makes clear that none of its shows are solely for fantasy football players, NFL Network appeals to the group in a number of ways.
”We had 52 preseason games in 29 days, which is the ultimate fantasy scouting tool,” said Seth Palansky, spokesman for the NFL Network.
The network also airs “Red Zone” on NFL Sundays from 1-4 p.m. ET, which provides statistics on players’ fumbles recovered, tackles for loss and the like while Fox and CBS are covering games.
“We feel we’re providing a service to fantasy football fans,” Palansky said. “If I go to a kid’s birthday party and miss games, I want a quick sense of what’s going on. It has all the key stats for fantasy players.”
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