Posts Tagged ‘athlon’

Magazine Producers Need Labor Resolution by NFL Draft

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Anyone who hopes to watch NFL games in 2011 obviously first has to hope for a new labor deal. If your business includes producing fantasy football magazines, the timeline for such a deal becomes even more important.

The developments — or relative lack thereof — over the past week of negotiations brings that issue into focus. The NFL and its players association extended last week the collective-bargaining deadline, pausing a potential chain of events that could have led to months in the courtroom.

According to’s Jim Trotter, negotiations nearly reached the breaking point before the extension. That would seem to enhance the importance of this week’s talks in avoiding a summer-long feud, which would crush the fantasy-magazine market for 2011.

Periodical producers have to be on pins and needles this week, right? Well, although all are certainly watching with interest, most have their eyes trained harder on NFL Draft weekend.

“This week on its own does not mean much if there was another week extension and then a deal,” RotoWorld managing editor Gregg Rosenthal told “It will be business as usual as long as there is NFL free agency before the NFL Draft.”

That notion was echoed by RotoWire president Peter Schoenke: “I think the NFL draft is probably a bigger deadline because it’s around the time we usually put together all the specifics for the magazine and we’ll need to see how much the editorial may suffer without off-season transactions.”

That’s the key issue in fantasy circles. The national media might be focused more on the negotiating stumbling blocks, the whereabouts of NFLPA counsel Jeffrey Kessler and the impact it all could have on the 2011 season.

We, however, need free agents to settle somewhere — even more so than usual. The no-CBA rules of 2010 changed the timeline for a league veteran reaching unrestricted free agency, and the result is a free-agent class of more than 500 players. It’s hard enough in a normal NFL calendar to project the outlook for hundreds of players and 32 team situations months ahead of time. Right now, content producers don’t even have the colors necessary to paint those pictures.

“Right now I’m researching cover subjects and the uncertainty of numerous potential free agents makes that a tougher task than in the past,” said Matt McKenzie, the lead editor for Sporting News’ Fantasy Football yearbook. “It also doesn’t help when it comes to our team reports, as there are some teams that have major holes across the board, which makes it hard to key in on their fantasy focuses.”

Of course, any delay that the labor issues shove into the off-season calendar will affect production schedules and could shrink the window for sales. The relative upside — very relative — is that this issue didn’t surprise NFL followers.

We’ve known for two years that winter 2011 would likely bring acrimony, and companies have had time to think about how to treat a potential lockout.

“We have been working under the assumption that a lockout is inevitable,” said Mitch Light, managing editor for Athlon Sports. “This negotiation extension gives us some hope, we still have to plan for all different scenarios.

Light said that his staff is in the process of setting a “drop-dead” date for production to start.

“If the lockout drags on for too long it just doesn’t make sense for us to publish a fantasy magazine,” he said. “Once we come up with that date, we will just sit back and wait.”

Others, however, plan to go to press whether the bickering has ended or not.

“Unfortunately, there’s not much to do but move forward the best we can,” McKenzie said for the SN magazine. “Some of the articles and capsules will have to be written a little looser than years before given the unknown free-agent situation, but I have no doubt we can still put out a quality magazine.”

Rosenthal shared a similar sentiment, relaying RotoWorld’s plan to publish even in an NFL standstill. He did point out, though, that a long struggle could lead to just a single edition being produced rather than the normal two-edition cycle.

Fantasy Index co-owner Bruce Taylor said his company has changed its contract structure for advertisers this year to suit the NFL situation. Normally a “cash-basis business,” Index is instead selling ad space in its fantasy football magazine on a “bill-me-later basis.”

“If the players and owners reach a settlement prior to the NFL draft, then we’ll execute the contracts,” Taylor said. “If an agreement is reached after the NFL draft but before May 15, then we’ll publish as usual, but likely with a smaller press run and a shorter on-sale period. We will reduce our advertising rates in direct proportion with the reduction in press run, and we’ll give advertisers the option to cancel their insertion orders.”

Smaller sales windows and downward adjustments in advertising rates are clearly scenarios that all hope not to encounter. The magazine business is tough enough these days, and fantasy content providers likely face an uphill battle to generate profits from these publications under normal conditions.

This will be a telling week for many throughout our industry, whether it ends with a labor deal or not. A new collective bargaining agreement by Friday would be the ideal, so that all could proceed with annual off-season plans. A further extension would mean more waiting and building anxiety, though it would also foster hope of a deal before the draft. Of course, a breakdown-lockout-lawsuit finish would be bad news.

For now, Fantasy Sports Publications founder Emil Kadlec says it’s not worth dissecting every step of the bargaining process.

“We’re obviously watching with great interest but whether a deal is done this week isn’t vital to our plans,” he told “We believe the deal will be done by the NFL draft which would fit well into our normal timeframe. Worst case, if needed, a one or two week on-sale date change is the most logical contingency. I think it’s best not to get caught up in the day-to-day drama of negotiations.”


2010 FSTA Award Winners

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Back home from the latest Fantasy Sports Trade Association winter conference, we’ll have material over the next few days covering some of the stuff learned.

At the end of a Wednesday gobbled up by travel and family time, though, we’ll pass along the winners of the most recent set of FSTA awards (in bold):

Grid Iron Fantasy Sports —
World Fantasy Games — RapidDraft Fantasy Football Weekly app
RotoWorld — Draftmaster software; Season PassOnline Fantasy Draft Guides
Fantasy Football Crystal Ball
Head2Head Sports — Injury/Bye Protection — Fantasy Grinder — Fantasy Football Draft Kit (mobile)
LeagueSafe — Fantasy Football 2010

World Fantasy Games — RapidDraft
Athlon — Pro+College Fantasy Football — Fantasy Playoff Challenge

MOST OUTSTANDING AD — TV spot — print ad (World Fantasy Games) — Week 17 Twitter mock draft
ESPN — campaigns for fantasy baseball, Tournament Challenge and fantasy football — print-Web promotion

FanDuel — Free Fantasy Football
World Fantasy Games — Diamond Challenge Fantasy Baseball

Baseball HQ — First Pitch Forums
WCOFF — Fantasy Live webcast
Head2Head — The Draft 2010
FanDuel — Fantasy Football Championship (WFG) — RapidDraft Weekly

UNIQUE AD — “Dots” TV spot — print-Web promotion (WFG) — Twitter mock draft

Fantasy Sherpa
Baseball HQ
The Huddle
XML Team
RapidDraft News (WFG) (Charlie Wiegert’s blog)

RotoLab — Bloomberg Decision Maker; Fantasy Tour
Competitive Sports Analysis — scoutPRO
Fantasy Football Crystal Ball — Fantasy Football Weekly app — Fantasy Football Commissioner — online draft room
Fantistics — Fantasy Draft Assistance Tool: Baseball; Football
RotoWorld — DraftMaster
Advanced Sports Media — Draft Analyzer

FaGames — Fantasy Football 2010
Competitive Sports Analysis
Gridiron Fantasy Sports —
Joe Namath (World Fantasy Games)


Athlon Blends College, Pro to Stand Out in ‘Saturated’ Market

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

There are plenty of places — big, well-known places — already on the Web where someone can go to play NFL fantasy football. Even a brand with as much history behind its name as Athlon Sports faces a daunting task in trying to break through.

Their solution: innovate. The result: Pro+College Fantasy Football.

“We wanted to create additional value,” interactive director Nathan Karp told “Having a multi-level dynasty type game was a good fit for us. It builds off of our brand identity, which is stronger in college than pro, and our history in the fantasy game market where we pioneered the college fantasy football angle in 1996.”

Any college football junky knows that the Athlon season preview magazine has been around awhile. That pioneering history in college fantasy games was actually acquired by Athlon just more than a year ago when it purchased U-Sports.

U-Sports fantasy college football ran last season under the Athlon label, and Karp said it was actually easy to add a pro platform to the existing infrastructure. The NFL, after all, with its 32 teams and about 40 eligible players per team (sorry, O-linemen) presents a universe probably not even one-quarter the size of the 120-team Division I field (I refuse to call it the Bowl Subdivision).

“The big challenges were more about the game play itself,” Karp said. “The two biggest issues were how to accommodate the different starts and ends to the pro and college seasons and how to refer to the team names.”

Athlon is avoiding the use of team nicknames to steer clear of any trademark infringement. Instead, debate finally settled on displaying NFL teams in all caps (e.g. ARIZONA) and colleges in normal case (Arizona).

Otherwise, the game does just what it says, combining college and pro players in the same pool and giving users the ability to drain that pool a bit if desired. Those creating leagues can include any number of teams from the entire field — meaning your dream of a game comprising only the Mountain West and NFC South can finally come true. (The Big Ten, unfortunately, thought these rules applied to real life as well.)

“You can play with all 152 teams if you are so inclined, or create an All-Texas league featuring everyone from the Dallas Cowboys to the Baylor Bears,” Karp said. “We have found over and over again that our users want flexibility above anything else.”

Karp said that it’s hard to develop any real expectations for signups, since this is the first time such a model has been brought to market. He did say, however, that the effort particularly targets two groups of fantasy players:

  • dynasty leaguers who want to extend their rosters to college players before they get drafted
  • those with college and pro leagues looking to combine

Karp concedes that these aren’t large user bases, but again, entering a saturated market calls for something unique.

“We realize that those are both niche/hardcore audiences, but we also hope to draw attention to our more typical fantasy games and content through this unique offering that again blazes a trail in fantasy sports,” he said.

Athlon offers pro- and college-only fantasy leagues for free, while Pro+College costs $100 ($130 after July).


FSB Daily 6/12: Athlon, WSJ, Yahoo!, MFL-FanDraft

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

A roundup of items recently posted on the FSB News page.

- Now this is interesting: Athlon Sports just launched this week a premium league-hosting option that allows users to combine college and NFL players in the same pool. will have the scoop as soon as we get a chance to talk to the folks involved.

- The Wall Street Journal recently presented a fairly extensive writeup on the fantasy implications of the just-started World Cup, as well as the pitfalls of fitting soccer into a successful fantasy format.

- Yahoo! gets into detail about its new fantasy sports API and YQL tables via its Developer Network Blog. I’d try to sum it up or pick out highlights here if I were a bit smarter.

- has partnered with FanDraft, allowing those who purchase the latter’s draft software to easily import results into MFL and save $20 off the MFL league-creation fee.

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