July 8th, 2010

Business Profile: RotoExperts

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Company: RotoExperts.com
Launch date: February 2008
Became full-time operation: June 2008
No. of employees: More than 30

RotoExperts blew onto the fantasy scene two years ago, making a particular splash by pulling in Scott Engel fresh off his stint with ESPN. Now Engel runs the day-to-day operations and took some time recently to tell FSB.com about what’s going on with his growing company.

1. What gap did RotoExperts see in a fairly saturated market of fantasy content when it launched in 2008?

We saw a need for more professional-style, high-level fantasy content. We treat fantasy content as seriously as any newspaper or wire service treats its standard sports coverages. We follow AP style and demand the highest professional standards from our writers. Fantasy sports is serious, and we take it seriously. Our syndication partners have a desire for high quality content and we meet their needs. Plus, many outlets are outsourcing these days, and we are nimble and can customize content with our partners’ needs foremost in our plans.

2. What did you see in RotoExperts that led you there after stints with big boys CBS and ESPN?

During my CBS SportsLine days, I was part of a thrilling ride as the company became a major player in fantasy sports. I can always know and say I was part of something truly special. The same thrill ride is taking place at RotoExperts. We have very quickly built a highly recognized and credible site and have made some serious headway in an industry that is not easy to make a mark in. Landing the platforms we have has been a very rewarding experience, and I work with some great people who really know the business. Being part of a great management team is a spectacular experience in addition to continuing as a fantasy content generator.

3. The site seemed to be building its brand in the early going as much as building up the content. How important has that brand building been, and what kind of steps were or are key to that process?

It has been very important to us to establish credibility with both users and with our peers in the industry. Partnerships have helped us establish our presence very quickly as one of the top independent fantasy sites in the industry. People have come to know and trust us, and we highly value those that follow us and work with us. The steps in the process include identifying and adding staffers who are willing to meet standards and help the business grow. Also, to share the quality of our content and experience and visions of our management team with partners.

4. How did you go about building content partnerships with major outlets such as NFL.com and Yahoo! Sports?

Such sites have high standards when it comes to fantasy content, and we share similar views and commitments to quality. Having worked closely with many of the NFL.com people in the past, we knew we were on the same page in terms of delivering analysis and insights. Yahoo! Sports appreciates the diversity of our content as well as the approach, and our editorial teams have worked closely with each other since the beginning. Again, having previous relationships with current and key Yahoo! staffers only eased the initial process.

5. RotoExperts has maintained a pretty strong Fantasy Sports Channel presence from early on, and you just added the SIRIUS XM deal. What has been the role of radio in building your site’s identity? How did the SIRIUS gig come about, and what does it mean for you guys?

Building and maintaining strong broadcasting presences has always been a goal of ours, and being on BlogTalkRadio allowed us to get more personal with users and further establish credibility while allowing us to build another professional presence. Fantasy players do not always want to sit and read, they like to be informed and entertained, too. We have a strong relationship with the Sirius XM team and had shared similar visions about a Fantasy Sports Channel. Now is the time to make such an idea become reality, and as the morning drive program, we lead off history in the making every day. That says a lot about the credibility and impact of the RotoExperts brand. Again, we demand high standards of content in all mediums, whether it’s written or spoken word.

6. Making money as a free content site is harder now than it might have been a few years back. What led you guys to go free and stay that way, even with material such as draft kits that some free sites might sell? What are the chances of going pay - or even adding a pay component such as a “premium” content level - down the road?

It was important for us to establish trust and credibility with users. We have reached those goals and now have a significant following. We have just launched our first-ever premium package, named the Xclusive Edge. People already know what they can get for free from us, and now they can get even higher levels of content and tools in a very price-friendly bundle. At the heart of our new package is our Xclusive Edge rankings and projections, for both drafting and lineup purposes. The RotoExperts “Supercomputer” takes more than 30 factors into account to come up with amazingly accurate player ratings, preseason and in-season. We are also offering live fantasy advice every day of the week. Get personal answers from some of the best of the biz, all year long. Fantasy experts are standing by!

7. RotoExperts has always sported a pretty large writing staff. How have you gone about scouting and adding writers?

We receive a lot of interested applicants, but we also seek out those who are willing to learn in a very professional environment. Our management team has a knack for identifying and adding only the best prospects. They have to be willing to meet our high standards and help us continue to build the brand. I personally review every applicant, and after many years in this business, not just anyone is going to pass the initial test or interview. It’s a rare bird who fuses promising writing skills with expert analysis. It’s our goal to find those people and mold them into something and someone fantasy players can trust.

8. You introduced Upset Challenge during football season last year. Should we expect to see more games from RotoExperts? If so, what role will they serve from a business standpoint?

We will be rolling out the Upset Challenge again this year, and it will be even bigger, better and more compelling. Look for the launch this summer. It’s the most unique and addictive game that you should play this year. You pick three NFL teams every week to possibly score the biggest upsets and earn big points and win great prizes. It makes rooting for the underdog better than ever. It really rewards your predictive skills in pro football.

9. Earlier this year, you put together a new board of directors, headed by Spackman Capital Group CEO Martin Mohabeer. What do he and the other board members mean for the site going forward?

Martin’s addition validates our visions to further grow RotoExperts as a major player in the industry. He sees the growth potential and exciting opportunities that still are there for the taking in a fantasy industry that is only going to continue to explode. Martin’s benchmarks and background in financial services and strategic development can only help us identify and seize the best opportunities out there. Our board is dedicated to making RotoExperts a long-lasting presence in the industry, one that will only continue to grow in reach and presence. We have some great visions of how to bring our top-notch fantasy information and insights to unique and distinctive platforms.

10. What are your plans for Fantasy Grinder, acquired earlier this year?

It’s a great application that can be a real difference-maker in the fantasy industry. Incorporate the Grinder into your league, and no more surfing all over the league site for all the info you need in one place, including expert advice and even trash talk.

The Grinder acts as a digital “beat reporter” for your Fantasy team and churns out unique and distinctive game previews and wrap-ups for every team in your league. It’s sleek, highly versatile and fresh, entertaining and informative. It makes the average fantasy league manager or game even more compelling and retentive. It’s drawn rave reviews from those who have been allowed behind the curtain so far. Think of a digital beat reporter assigned to your team who not only covers the games, but quotes you and offers advice of his own.

We plan to make the Grinder a reality in fantasy leagues, and once we do, those who play in such leagues will find it to be completely addictive. There have been attempts by others to do a Grinder-like product, but none matches ours for its customization and personalization.