Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yahoo Stat Tracker and the Benefits of Competition

The score is tied late in the fourth quarter...

The quarterback takes the snap and rolls right...

He sees the tight end open in the corner of the end zone, he passes...


The thrill of victory, for the quarterback, the tight end, and the team's fans.

But for thousands of other football watchers around the country, the thrill of the moment is superseded by the ticking of a computerized spreadsheet.

Six fantasy points for the tight end! Or four if you had the quarterback! Or maybe ten if you had them BOTH!

People like to rail on fantasy football as a destructive force rampaging through the NFL. They argue that it destroys fan loyalty to their team and promotes individual success at the expense of team interests.

Those people are whiners...but that is neither here nor there.

For the past few years I've played fantasy football, and it's a lot of fun. The advances in internet technology has fostered an explosion in both the number of fantasy players and the quality of league management systems. Yahoo! was one of the first to take advantage, becoming, in my experience, the dominant fantasy league management provider.

For absolutely nothing, you and your friends could create a league and run it for nothing.

Of course, Yahoo!, in an attempt to monetize its large user base, offered a Yahoo! Plus upgrade. If you were actually willing to pay, you could get a more advanced package that offered additional research information (pretty useless) and things like StatTracker (very useful).

StatTracker is just some additional software that updates your teams' performance information in real-time. If you don't play fantasy football, trust me, it's nice to have.

Anyway, Yahoo! has always tried to charge for this feature. I think somewhere in the range of $12-$20 for the season. Not a lot, but certainly not something most casual fantasy players would go for.

All that's changed, as Yahoo is now promoting its StatTracker as free to all users.


Of course, this isn't because Yahoo! is some benevolent company trying to give away its products for the betterment of the fantasy football world. For the free giveaway, we should really be thanking ESPN.

I may be wrong, but last season (or potentially the season before), ESPN started making a huge push for its own fantasy management system. They promoted it heavily on its own network (which Yahoo! doesn't have), its sports websites, and things like its podcasts (I specifically remember Bill Simmons mentioning it).

Against the threat from ESPN, who gives away things like StatTracker, Yahoo has reduced its price from ~$12-$20 to zero (which I'm pretty sure is the marginal cost).

Nice to see the economics of competition play out.

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