Growth in Fantasy Consumers Plateaued in Past Year

After years of rapid growth in its consumer base, the fantasy sports industry saw things plateau a bit in the past year, according to two sets of research presented by Ipsos’ Aaron Amic and Dr. Kim Beason at the FSTA conference this week.

Over the previous five years, fantasy consumers were increasing at an average rate of about 23 percent. In the past year, though, Ipsos found that about the same number of people reported playing fantasy sports in the United States and Canada as had in the year prior.

It stands to reason that the big growth stats from the early 2000s wouldn’t continue forever, but why did the upward trend go flat at this point?

Is it money? No. Even in the toughest economic times that many of us have every seen, most of the respondents to the Ipsos suvery who had never played fantasy or quit said their decision was based on a mere lack of interest. On top of that, it’s always been true that many more fantasy players go for free leagues than pay games.

Is the audience maturing without bringing in new young people? It doesn’t seem that way. According to Ipsos, the 12-17 and 18-34 age ranges presented the largest saturation of fantasy players (i.e., a larger percentage within each of those groups played fantasy in the past year than the numbers for other ranges sampled).

Is it a matter of us all hitting a period that just required folks to turn their attention elsewhere? Maybe. The time commitment was another reason cited by those who gave up or avoided fantasy. Even if tightening budgets didn’t keep them away, perhaps sheer concern for their jobs and bank accounts led more people to decide they couldn’t afford to join a league.

Was it just a strange year? Perhaps. One year hardly constitutes a trend, and things could look significantly different in 2010.

Over the coming days and weeks, will check in with folks around the industry to see what they think of the growth plateau and whether fantasy companies need to change anything to counter it. We’ll also get more into the material presented in this year’s editions of the annual Fantasy Sports Trade Association studies.


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