Watch CBS News

Schwartz: The Story Behind Groundbreaking FanDuel

By Peter Schwartz
» More Columns

As we head towards Week 4 in the NFL, many fantasy owners are looking good. Others, however, are looking to tweak their squads.

Then, there are owners like myself, who are looking forward to 2015.

That is an issue when it comes to season-long fantasy leagues. What do you do when your season is over before it starts? A team can be decimated early on because of injuries and bad decisions.

What if you were able to get a do-over? What if you were able to push the reset button? What if you were able to hit control-alt-delete?

What if you were able to play fantasy football one week at a time?

Well, thanks to, your fantasy football season isn't over after a bad week. The company is the leader in one-week fantasy football and one-day fantasy sports games. The company started in 2009, and now five years later it has over 12,000 daily leagues. FanDuel is paying out over $10 million in prize money every week.

"We give fans the opportunity to enter leagues that last one day, or in terms of the NFL, pick a new lineup based on the week," said FanDuel CEO and Co-Founder Nigel Eccles. "We have some hardcore players, along with more casual players."

Nigel Eccles
Nigel Eccles (Credit: Steinlight Media)

FanDuel allows an owner to draft a team in just minutes using a salary-cap system instead of a typical snake-style draft. The process saves a lot of time and you don't have to commit to an entire season.

To date, FanDuel has paid out $310 million in prize money. Players can enter leagues for a fee anywhere from $2 to a few hundred dollars.

"The cost of playing varies from each league and the payouts depend on the type of leagues," said Eccles. "We keep 9 percent (of fees) and users are awarded the rest. So this year, FanDuel will award more than $400 million to users."

In addition to the NFL, FanDuel also offers leagues for Major League Baseball, college football, college basketball, the NBA and the NHL. While the NFL leagues are the most popular for the company, FanDuel is seeing an increase in interest in the other sports.

"We are seeing a very rapid growth for fantasy players looking for one-day games for the NBA and MLB," said Eccles. "We see a lot of opportunity in the NHL as well as both college football and basketball, which we also offer."

I have to admit that I was late to the party in terms of fantasy football. This is the first year that I've owned a team, and I have to admit that it's been fun even though my team hasn't done very well. The neat thing about fantasy sports is that anyone can play. It doesn't matter how old you are or how much of an expert you are.

The sheer excitement of putting your own team together has caused an explosion in fantasy football over the years.


"Fantasy sports make the experience of watching games and following players so much more interactive and stimulating," said Eccles. "It increases the amount of time people spend watching sports, learning about their players and caring about their rosters."

Among the different types of leagues that FanDuel offers, owners can take part in the FanDuel Fantasy Football Championship. Each week, there are qualifying leagues where users can win a free trip to Las Vegas on December 14. Owners have the chance to win $2 million and a ride home on a private jet. For more information you can visit

There's no question about the popularity of fantasy football and other fantasy sports leagues. There are 41 million people who play fantasy sports, but where does it go from here? Can it get any more popular?

FanDuel believes that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

"We believe that over the next year we will be crossing into the mainstream fantasy sports industry," said Eccles. "Only a small percentage of season-long players have tried our format, so there is enormous opportunity to grow. And we're looking forward to working with teams, networks and leagues to reach more users and maximize the fan experience."

Fantasy sports, particularly fantasy football, has become an incredible phenomenon. When you see a sports bar full of fans watching games, they are not just following their favorite teams -- they are also keeping tabs on their fantasy teams.

But now things have changed. You don't have to worry about your season going up in smoke after just a couple of weeks. You can still keep your season-long teams, but now you can also use FanDuel to play fantasy sports week by week or day by day.

Now there's a fantasy that has come true!

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow Nigel Eccles @nigeleccles and FanDuel @FanDuel.

You May Also Be Interested In These Stories

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.