Why College Football Fantasy’s Perfect for Yahoo Sports
Michael Graben is set to score big in a whole new game: College Fantasy Football. The Senior Product Manager of Yahoo Fantasy Sports took everything fans love about the pro game and applied it to college, bringing a proven success to a huge new market. Read on to learn how this project came to life.
Tell us about this product in your own words.
Think fantasy football, but swap the professional universe of 32 teams with 65 college football teams. It's the same fantasy football game everyone knows and loves, but with college football players. The larger player pool makes the research more fun and provides a new challenge.
We included all the features our users know and expect: draft and research tools, snake and auction drafts, mock drafts, similar league/roster/scoring settings, live stats and scoring in our new StatTracker, etc. The game is also available in our Yahoo Fantasy app, and we think that's a big win. No major media company offers a college fantasy football game—this was an opportunity to fill that gap.
Were there any challenges to this new product?
It has been almost 20 years since Yahoo Fantasy Sports produced a new season-long game. It was easy for the team to start this project with certain expectations and assumptions, but we knew there would be surprises, and there were.
For example, we assumed key scoring stats we needed from our stats provider would be available to us. When we learned that wasn't the case, we had to put together a plan to derive the stats we needed from other sources. We were close to not having support for fumbles (standard fantasy scoring deducts 2 points from a player for a lost fumble), but we were able to find a way.
In the end, a number of teams worked hard to bring this product to life in a short timeframe. I'm extremely proud that we pulled it off and excited to see what we can do with the game going forward.
What makes college football fans different?
In communities where there are no professional sports franchises nearby, college teams are everything. While the largest number of fans are in the South, they're also in the Midwest and, to a smaller extent, in our larger cities too.
We see it firsthand with our Rivals product. Over the years, thousands of college fans have been willing to pay for premium content, news, recruiting info, and to be part of a community of like-minded passionate fans. They do this because of one common theme: they love their teams.
The commitment college fans bring to their teams is on display every Saturday. Tune into any college football game, and you see the energy on the field: marching bands, huge fan sections from each team, cheer squads, fans running onto the field when their team wins. The fans are part of what makes college football so great.
What's your college team?
I graduated from Chico State (about an hour north of Sacramento, CA), and my Wildcats have been on a historical, amazing streak—undefeated since 1997!
Joking aside, the football program was abandoned in 1997. When I moved back to the Bay Area after school, it was easy to adopt the team in my backyard: Stanford. Excited to see what Bryce Love does this year!
I also support my wife's alma mater, San Jose State, and we try to catch a Spartans game or two each season. The Bill Walsh Legacy games (annual SJSU vs Stanford game) were always a blast, but those ended a few years back.
Why is College Fantasy Football a win for Yahoo Sports?
This product provides an opportunity to reach a market outside of the big cities. It's a huge audience that we think is underserved. We know the fans love fantasy sports and college football.
Massive audiences tune into college football games each week. Last season's title game had 28.4 million viewers—slightly higher than last year's World Series game 7, and just below the NBA Finals game 7 in 2016. The games also crush the average Sunday Night Baseball game, and five regular season games exceeded 10 million viewers. Those are huge TV ratings!