East End Tech: Sports Apps, the Fantasy Factory

Welcome back, sports fans. Last week, I highlighted sports apps that provide news, real-time scores and live streaming of games. It was a good start, but there’s unfinished business. It’s time to talk about another category of sports apps that is setting the app world on fire: Fantasy Sports!

Before we dig in, consider this:

What if I came to you and said I was starting a business based entirely on virtual statistics that I made up in my basement with a dozen of my nerdiest friends? What if these statistics didn’t necessarily control the outcome of anything and had zero relevance to the real world? Now, what if I also said this business would be based entirely on fictitious assets with no real products or goods? And what if I projected that this company would generate an estimated

$1.1 billion a year in revenues, in the U.S. alone?

Would you invest in that business? Hell no. You’d laugh hysterically or throw me in the Plum Island “medical testing center” where the Montauk Monster resides.

Guess what? That’s how much money fantasy sports generated last year, according to Forbes. And it doesn’t include self-funded casual leagues or gambling data—you know, because gambling is illegal.

Fantasy Sports is no fantasy on the business side, and the apps are very real. Best of all—they’re free.

The Minor Leagues

The first question to ask is this: How serious are you about Fantasy Sports? If you’re a casual player who likes to follow teams and play around with numbers, you probably don’t need a premium app—a simple “host” app will suffice.

ESPN, CBS, the NFL, Yahoo and others all have really good basic hosting apps. Obviously, the app needs to be tied to whichever entity actually hosts your league. For what it’s worth, sports geeks seem to love the Yahoo host app; its UI draws rave reviews and is clean, simple and makes it easy to track your teams and players. Bonus item: The Yahoo app enables you to draft players from your phone, which saves hours and hours of sitting on the phone or in a room with super-geeky pals.

The ESPN app is very popular too, but draws criticism because the UI is a little old and tired-looking, plus they run a lot of ads. Like most host apps, ESPN does enable you to manage your team, add and drop players, and of course access key stats to ruin your game day.

The NFL app also gets good reviews for its look and feel. But it draws sharp criticism from players because the “app” is really just a mobile version of the NFL.com fantasy football website. Feels like the NFL cut corners on this one; I guess their jillion-dollar TV contract didn’t earn them enough dough. Let’s kick it up a notch.

The All-Star Team

If you’re a die-hard fantasy player—the kind of person who obsessively checks scores, studies numbers and player performances for weeks before the draft, and spies on other teams in your fantasy league—I have bad news. You’ve got problems. Seriously, you need to get a life or get help.

The good news is, there are millions of folks who share your predicament, and several great apps to maximize your information obsessions.

CBS Sports Fantasy Football is a prime example. It’s loaded with player information, statistics, up-to-date injury reports, and the team’s pre-game dinner menu (guess which one of those isn’t true?). You can also access the information even if you don’t use CBS to host your league, so this is a great companion to whichever host app you use.

Honorable Mention: If you’re feeling like the late George Steinbrenner, you can always splurge and waste, I mean spend, some money on cheat sheets and “insider reports” to give you rumors, gossip and other “stuff” about players that might influence your weekly rosters. These apps can also serve as quick and handy guides to help calculate a player’s value on draft day—which is the key to any successful fantasy team.

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