SBJ/20081117/SBJ In-Depth

Sites offer another way to deliver fantasy sports

For Brenda Spoonemore, former NBA executive and head of Seattle-based start-up Atomic Moguls, social media represents the revamp that fantasy sports desperately needs — despite the meteoric growth still occurring across the industry.

“This is fundamentally a social game, something you do with your friends, but the model hasn’t really changed since it first went online back in the ’90s,” said Spoonemore, who worked back then for Starwave, which helped develop ESPN.com and was among those that helped bring fantasy sports to the Internet.

“If you were to reinvent fantasy sports today, you’d do it in a situation like this, where you had a distributed model that takes advantage of these social networks, where this kind of activity is already happening, where people are spending more of their time,” she said.

Spoonemore’s outfit — backed in part by Second Avenue Partners, a venture capital outfit founded by former Starwave Chief Executive Mike Slade — originally began two years ago trying to forge a niche in entertainment-based fantasy gaming. Games centered on projecting box-office receipts like sports fans tally yards and touchdowns.

Atomic Moguls provides entertainment
and sports fantasy applications aimed
for social-networking sites.

That operational model is now on the back burner in favor of sports, but rather than seek to battle established players such as Yahoo!, ESPN and CBSSports.com in standard, commissioner-style games, Atomic Moguls is focusing on lighter, less-intense games that exist within Facebook, MySpace and Bebo.

“There is still a lot of room in the market for these kind of lighter games that don’t have quite the level of time commitment as a commissioner-style game would,” Spoonemore said. “People have talked about these types of games for quite a while, but it hasn’t fully happened before the social networks, and it’s not really there on the bigger portals.”

Atomic Moguls last month signed a deal with Fox Sports Interactive in which all of the North American-based games and team applications will be rebranded
“FoxSports.com Applications powered by Fantasy Moguls” — Atomic Moguls’ consumer brand.

Spoonemore’s company also maintains two business lines outside of the Fox agreement: a collection of international games, including those centered on the Olympics and World Cup, and production of white-label products that operate under client brands, such as fantasy games produced for the NBA and Yahoo!.

More than 2 million total installations of Atomic Moguls products have occurred, with revenue coming from a combination of ad sales and contract fees.

“This is such a better environment to run a fantasy operation,” Spoonemore said. “And the prospects are only looking better as people spend more time at home and more time on the social networks.”

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