July 14th, 2009

OPEN Sports to Run Fox’s Fantasy Games

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

“We may not make it into the top 3 in year 1 of this, but certainly expect to be there in a short period of time.”

That is the stated expectation of Fox Sports Interactive Senior VP of Operations Jeff Husvar in Tuesday’s Sports Business Daily report of the fantasy deal struck between Fox and OPEN Sports.

According to the report, the multiyear partnership will begin with the coming football season, include baseball in 2010 and extend to other unspecified sports beyond that.

The football offerings will include a standard commissioner-style setup, a commissioner game that allows “real-time” substitutions during NFL games and the “shorter-form” Fox Fantasy Quick Challenge that sounds like it will probably fit into the growing stable of weekly fantasy games.

“We’re looking to make a very big statement to the marketplace,” Husvar told SBD. That statement will begin in earnest Tuesday night’s MLB All-Star Game, when the new fantasy setup is due to get a 20-second spot on-air. Husvar also reportedly said he is talking with fellow Fox executives to figure out how to better integrate fantasy into the network’s studio offerings. (Apparently he’s not satisfied with Brian Baldinger, Troy Aikman and co. picking one “fantasy stud” before each game.)

As for the plan to join the “big three” of mainstream fantasy sites within a year, that seems like a pretty lofty goal. Yahoo, ESPN and CBS Sports all sit way ahead of Fox in that race with gaggles of engaged, returning customers.

The one area that could gain Fox a foothold is if the in-game substitution model works out. Nearly all of us play in formats that require lineups to be set before kickoff, so this newer concept could be intriguing. Of course, we here at FSB.com would like to reserve true judgment on the concept until we learn more about it. SBD’s story says that each football offering will provide free-play options, though it’s not clear if Fox plans to build pay products as well.

No financial terms were announced for the deal, but the partnership is reportedly designed to end up giving Fox part ownership of OPEN Sports. It’s also worth noting that Husvar and OPEN Sports founder Mike Levy were once colleagues at CBSSportsline.com. (Levy, of course, founded Sportsline before CBS acquired it.)

(Click here for the official press release.)