June 23rd, 2010

PFFWC will be Interesting to Watch

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

The long silence and eventual shuttering of the Fantasy Football Open Championship left plenty of players with questions and anger. It left Aaron Wine, however, with an idea.

Wine said he played the contest through both seasons of its existence and loved it (no doubt helped by coming in eighth overall in 2008). At the same time, he had been working his way down an entrepreneurial path that has him near completion on a master’s degree in business.

“I’ve been looking to expand my business knowledge and ability, and I thought go for it,” Wine told FSB.com recently.

In this case, “going for it” meant launching the Progressive Fantasy Football World Championship.

Wine said he began putting the contest together in late April on a hunch that the FFOC would not be returning, and it has certainly been a case of learning on the fly.

Before his site went live, Wine set up PFFWC forums to start getting word out about his game and interact with potential users. It was in that stage that he revealed his plan for a “progressive” prize structure — one that initially would have fallen short of qualifying as legal under the UIGEA.

The line there is that any fantasy contest must set a guaranteed prize amount (no matter how many entries there end up being), with the ability to grow the payout level as the field of entrants expand. The initial plan with the PFFWC was to tie the prize level directly to the number of players.

That’s the kind of thing you’d like to see ironed out before a game is public instead of pointed out in the forums, but Wine’s style since going public with the concept has been one of openness and feeling his way. That might be unsettling to some considering whether to invest their money. Others with confidence shaken by recent questionable practices in the high-stakes space might have an easier time trusting a more transparent operation such as this one.

Either way, the legal stuff got sorted out, and the PFFWC lauched with a $100 entry fee (similar to the FFOC) and a guaranteed top prize of $3,500 that can grow with more entries. League winners pocket $200. The contest also follows the same scheduling format as the FFOC.

Wine said the break-even point for his first season would come at 450 teams purchased, mostly covering the cost for programming. He says his operating costs will decrease significantly after in year two, however, because he’ll own all of the technology used to run the drafts and the contest after having it custom built. His background as a database administrator and user interface expert has come in handy in the development phase and will no doubt continue to be important to his operation.

As of mid-June, Wine had 30 teams purchased, with a round of commercials scheduled to run in ESPN in the Dallas, San Antonio and Austin markets. (So residents shouldn’t be alarmed if they see this guy.) The first live draft took place this week.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of customer base the PFFWC can drum up in a segment of the fantasy market that has gotten more crowded lately. The short window in which Wine went from idea to live game also makes his venture interesting to observe. Many others take much more time for development, testing and everything else that goes into launching a new business.

However it goes, he’s definitely heading in with the proper mindset.

“I’m not looking to get rich,” he said. “I’m here to start a business and have fun doing it.”