US launch scheduled for September 7
The US National Football League may be an implacable opponent of online gambling in its bid to "preserve the integrity of sport", but has no such qualms about the burgeoning fantasy sports phenomenon, which it seems to have embraced with fervour.
The League's football deal with DirecTV has extended to that company's new football fantasy dedicated television channel scheduled to launch September 7 under the "Fantasy Zone" brand.
The programming will be exclusive to NFL Sunday Ticket Max subscribers, and presentation will be in the same energetic style as its "Red Zone" channel.
There's big money in fantasy sports in general and fantasy football in particular, especially since it has broken out into tournament-style pay-to-play activity, with a growing number of websites offering facilities.
Because it is regarded as a pastime controlled principally by skill, the genre is regarded as legal on the convoluted American legal scene, and has not yet attracted the ire of the Department of Justice.
According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, there are now 41 million fantasy sports participants in the U.S. and Canada, up 25 percent from 2010… and nearly three-quarters of these punters play fantasy football, typically spending $2 billion a year and counting on related fees&hellips; and paying to enter in competitions and win prizes or cash.
DirecTV's new channel expands and exploits that interest, with "…game-to-game fantasy analysis and statistics… along with multiple, revolving on-screen tickers offering real-time stats, highlights, projections and key player updates."
It's an upward gear change compared to current fantasy sports television programs on a smaller scale with which ESPN has experimented.
For DirectTV, which is the subject of a reportedly $50 billion acquisition bid by telecomms giant AT&T, the relationship with the National Football League could be a deal-breaker; if DirecTV is unable to clinch an extension of its four-year, $4 billion general agreement with the NFL at the end of the 2014 season, it could materially impact the AT&T deal.
The general deal has worked well for NFL so far, with DirectTV attracting an estimated 2 million NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers in 2013. A significant percentage of these are Max subscribers, who pay $330 annually for enhanced service that includes Red Zone, mobile and the new Fantasy Zone channel.
Currently hyping the imminent arrival of Fantasy Zone are top professional football brothers Penton and Eli Manning, who with typically vivid American showmanship tell you all about Fantasy Zone on a promotional vid here, reprising their earlier success in the NFL "Football on Your Phone" rap vid:
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