Wednesday, June 10th, 2009...11:47 pm

Fantwitsy Sports

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I’ve been aimlessly chirping away on Twitter for awhile now. Make no mistake, my random tweets are extraordinarily unexceptional as I ponder man vs. mosquito or the physical beauty of brothers Van Gundy.

But I certainly have been learning firsthand about the Twitter platform and how people are interacting and communicating in interesting new ways. Tweeting has proven invaluable for thinking up new ideas for the Sportsvite community. For example, I want to create an up to the minute twitter ringer alert to connect teams needing last minute subs with people looking to play sports that day. I also have begun including twitter applications and integrations into many of the Sportsvite sponsorship proposals. I’ve even been tweeting with NBA player Charlie Villanueva about potential business opportunities. In fact @CV31 told me that “we’re all big shots if we take big shots…

I have one twitter idea that I’ve been thinking an awful lot about these days. I’ll call it Fantweetsy (or Fantwitsy) Sports. As you can probably figure out Fantweetsy Sports is a Fantasy sports game based on the twitter platform. (And yes, I’ve already purchased the domain names).

Before I get into the details I want to first break down a new trend in how people are watching television. No longer do people just sit on the couch and passively watch tv. They now actively watch television by using a second device. This device isn’t your cable box (cable companies are dropping the ball here!) but rather it is your laptop or mobile device. Think about how you follow your fantasy team online as you watch sports or tweeting/texting/BBM habits during your favorite television show. Perhaps you’re doing a completely different task online that isn’t related to what you are watching on television. Um, facebook? If you aren’t doing any of this stuff or don’t think this is a trend I dare you to find me a person born after 1985 who just stares at the Idiot Box mesmerized – it just doesn’t happen anymore.

Television is still the dominant medium for mass media. Look at the ratings for the NBA Finals, Monday Night Football or just about any major sporting event. The audience numbers are in the millions. Even more intriguing is that sports are DVR proof. People want to watch sports live. So every night of the week hundreds of thousands of sports fans are watching their favorite team on television while they twitter/twiddle their thumbs looking for something to do on their second (computer) or third (mobile) screen. This is where I believe a Twitter Fantasy game will do exceptionally well.

The power and success of Fantasy Sports is well documented (check out my thoughts). There are already all kinds of fantasy games from full-featured draft leagues to addicting, quick play games like ESPN Streak For The Cash or MLB Beat The Streak. But there is no current fantasy game that allows fans to play and interact in real time while the game is unfolding.

I haven’t yet figured out the exact rules for a Fantasy Twitter sports game. Let’s take an NBA finals game as a possible example though. Anytime before the game a user could send a tweet with five players’ names or numbers in the order of who they think would score the most points (or fill up the entire stat sheet if the game uses multiple categories). At any point during the game a user has a certain number of substitutions for reserves (in that same game) so you can sub in and out players just as the coaches are doing. To make a sub you just send a tweet with the switch. Certain characters and hash tags would signify tweets that apply to the game. Throughout the game stats will be accumulated and fantasy scores will be determined for the game.

A similar model could work for any sport. Even if these rules are a little shaky, I’m sure with some more thought we could come up with something really good. Perhaps a even more simplified version of a twitter fantasy game is just tweeting three players who you think will hit a Home Run that night and track progress throughout the season.

While this may sound interesting as a way to follow along for the NBA Finals think about a mid-season Big Monday college basketball game on ESPN. All of a sudden you can flip to ESPN and be instantly engaged in any sports event on television. You might actually have a reason to give a damn about the random BYU vs. TCU Mountain West conference game.

Since Twitter is an open platform building something like this is quite possible. Check out Twackle or StockTwits as examples of online communities built on top of the Twitter platform. The details definitely need to be flushed out from both a user and development standpoint.

Let’s see how this fits into my digital framework for my web ideas…

Digital crack- Check. Fantasy amazes me in that it is as addicting as gambling even though it’s not really gambling (people often play for the game instead of the money). Add to that the instant gratification, ease of play, and real time reporting and it’s certainly time to heat up the spoon!

Core Strengths – My personal skills and value would be in creating the rules of the game, developing the product and mucho marketing and PR. Development and design would be relatively limited (famous last words).

Social Media - It’s twitter. Little birdies sitting on branches chirping away. This is how Bird Flu spread and the game would be naturally viral.

SEO – Hm, not sure about this one. Perhaps twitter search is the new S in SEO.
Cult Community – Twitter just might be the biggest cult since Jim Jones’ Kool Aid party. The way people enjoy Fantasy and the explosion of twitter marries two incredible hot trends.

A&O – I guess in a way this application will be aggregating/organizing all the televised sports events and bringing them together. Granted, this is a bit of a stretch in that this business isn’t really creating efficiencies in information. I need to think about this some more.

Moral Mission/Passion – Not saving the world here but definitely would be doing something that is both cool and fun.

Revenue – Not sure yet. I’m very intrigued by a subscription fee possibility (while staying away from gambling). It could get dicey to rely on sponsorship opportunity (and hence immediate audience growth) and we’re past the days of just building something with no direct monetization strategy.

Major Concerns

#1 – Twitter 4 Life?
Building a business on top of a private platform (which is really just another business) can always be a bit risky. Who knows how twitter evolves and grows. But I also had the same concerns about Facebook and remember being baffled by a Facebook App conference right when they announced their API.

#2 – Unknown Revenue Streams
I’m just not sure if I have the appetite to build a business where success is not measured by revenue (at least off the bat). It would suck to get everything right and have great user adoption and the reward is that the business is out of cash and has no substantial revenue.

I like this business/project and can envision how I can get this going with a prototype out within a months for less than six figures. Fred Wilson recently wrote an intersting blog post about what drives consumer adoption and his theory was that consumers are driven by new experiences that are simple and useful and/or enteratining. I’m just not sure what would happen if this actually worked (but then again, I guess that would be a nice problem to have). I know somebody is going to do this and I think there is a big first move advantage for building buzz and an audience.

My plan is to send this blog post around to friends, colleagues and contacts and get some feedback. So if you’re reading this I would love to hear what you think and to discuss any interesting or pertinent opportunities or contacts.

  • Kevin Marshall

    Hey this is a great idea…I’m in the fantasy realm as well (and the stats area)…we should talk about some of this if/when you get a chance as I’ve also got lots of ideas (and a strong interest) that could be thrown at this…

  • jaquet

    Yo, I can’t believe you are taking shots at the Mtn West Conf. Come on Bro, it’s me Jaquet! Overall, I think your thought processes around games like “The Streak” are in line with this and selling a title sponsor to that could be your revenue model. Blue labeling this for a big fantasy advertiser would be a huge get for all as a company could really wrap their arms around being revolutionary. Rights issues there on promotion but if the app is killer, it’ll work. No ad model here for text unless you text back. If users opted in to get a text back, you could send coupons. Mobile phones as checkout counter discount vehicles is here already.

    The revenue model for Twitter overall has many heads being scratched but the mobile phone companies are getting rich from everybody switching to unlimited plans. So a good prospect list there.

    Go for it Litty! A good twitter app to check out is Clever Commute. It used to be an email-based program but now tweets NJ Transit commuters realtime delay and track number information and it even got a neighbor of mine’s lost wallet found!

  • <fb:name linked="false" useyou="false" uid="9801402">Nate Westheimer</fb:name>

    Nice, Litty. This Stocktwits example is a good one. I think you can do it.

  • Darren Herman

    I like the idea, as I love the fantasy sports space.

    I’d like to raise $X,XXX,XXX to fund multiple fantasy sports ideas and scale the ones that perform well and fail fast on others.

    There are few folks taking fantasy sports seriously these days.