Fan engagement and viewership are amplifying in India thanks to fantasy sports. What is encouraging is that not just cricket fans are hooked on to fantasy sports, but sports like football, kabaddi and badminton are gaining immense popularity.
Harsh Jain, Chairman of Indian Federation of Sports Gaming, who is the CEO and co-founder at Dream11, a fantasy sports platform based in India, spoke to Moneycontrol on the booming market, its growth and the present FIFA World Cup craze.
Q. Tell us a little about how fantasy games work and what's the scenario in India?
A. In fantasy sports, fans create virtual teams of real players of a particular sport. These teams compete based on the statistical performance of the players in actual games.
Over the past decade, fantasy team sports have been at the helm of evolving Indian sports fans’ experience by giving them a platform to showcase their sports knowledge and skill. Around 70 crore passive sports viewers in the country now have the opportunity to become active participants in every match. Fantasy sports is the start of a revolution that will change the face of the sports industry.
Numbers based on a survey show that awareness of fantasy sports is high in India, with 67 percent people surveyed being aware of the industry. The engagement level of fantasy sports is so high, that users continue to play, while dropouts are as low as a mere 2%.
Q. Is it a growing market?
A. Of course. According to a recent IFSG-Nielsen report we have 40 million fantasy sports players in India. It is a ten-year-old market and the number is huge when compared to the US and Canada markets that have 59.3 million fantasy sports users, even as fantasy sports started in countries in the 1980s.
By the end of next year, we are hoping that India will have the highest number of fantasy sports players.
Moreover, there were just 10 service providers until September 2107, and now there are 70 operators.
Q. What are the games being followed? What is the profile of users like?
A. Statistics show that contrary to conventional wisdom, fantasy sports is as popular in non-metros as it is in metro cities and it is also not just about cricket. The sport enjoys 85% popularity, followed by football, kabaddi and basketball. We see cricket dominance lowering with the Indian diaspora developing a taste for other sports too. From 95% cricket fans in fantasy sports we have come down to 85%, in the next three years we could see it going to 75%.
Geographical variations aside, demographically, fantasy sports fans are independent, married, well-educated, working professionals with a disposable income. Most of the users are mature and are in the age group of 25-35.
Q. Do fantasy sports increase viewership of the games?
A. Fantasy sports amplify fan engagement and viewership across the world. Almost all major sports leagues in the world are using fantasy sports as their primary tool of fan engagement. The CPL, ISL and NBA have all forged official partnerships with Dream11 to offer fantasy cricket, football and basketball. Further, EPL, IPL and PKL run their own fantasy games to keep fans engaged.
Fantasy sports is the new language of sports, and has the potential to change the way Indian sports fans traditionally consumed sports.
Q. Did you see a surge in the number of user ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup?A.
With FIFA we have seen a massive surge in the number of users. We have almost 1 million people play fantasy sports only on Dream11 which is 10 times the normal traffic for football.