Technology spurs growth of fantasy sports in U.S.

Wed Sep 24, 2008 8:29pm EDT
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By Ben Klayman

CHICAGO (Reuters) - If Scott Troetel is out with friends when the Indianapolis Colts are playing, he often reaches for his Blackberry to check how running back Joseph Addai is doing.

But Troetel, who is 32 and lives in Boulder, Colorado, is not particularly interested in the Colts. Addai's performance is crucial to "Addai in the Life," Troetel's fantasy football team.

Fantasy sports, where fans select real athletes for make-believe teams, are exploding onto new platforms like smart phones and social networking sites, grabbing the attention of advertisers, wireless carriers and software companies.

And with a growing number of people playing casual games on the Internet and a largely untapped market outside the United States, analysts say the market for fantasy sports can only grow.

Among companies benefiting from this growth is 4Info, which alerts its users to things like sports scores and celebrity gossip via text message, with its revenue coming from advertisers.

Of the half a billion text messages that 4Info expects to send this year, as many as 15 percent will be to people seeking sports results to feed into their fantasy sports teams, said CEO Zaw Thet.

"People have yet to realize the full potential of fantasy as it really comes to the cell phone and we'll see that over the course of the next several years," said Thet, whose company is backed by Gannett Co, General Electric Co's NBC Universal and venture capital firms.

While there is disagreement on the origin of fantasy sports, they came to wide attention with the publication of "Rotisserie League Baseball" in 1984, based on a league played by a group of New York media types and rules by magazine writer Daniel Okrent.   Continued...