CDM Sports Returns Via RG Ventures Deal with Liberty

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Part of the surprise over the “Fanball closing” announcement was that it appeared the doors were simply being shut without inventory moving on. This week, however, brought us the second acquisition of former Fanball holdings since that news.

As posted now at Fanball.com and CDMSports.com and e-mailed to Fanball users:

RG Ventures, LLC announced today that it has completed its purchase of various assets from Liberty Sports Interactive, Inc. (”Fanball”) which includes all of the rights to a suite of Fantasy Challenge and Draft and Play games. John Brison and Charlie Wiegert, two of the original founders of CDM Fantasy Sports, and a group of former employees and industry veterans will operate the games for RG Ventures under the trade name “CDM Sports” beginning immediately.

The Company’s suite of games will include the legendary fantasy baseball Diamond Challenge, Football Challenge, Draft and Play Baseball, Draft and Play Football, and Fantasy Cup. The Company will begin taking registrations for its fantasy baseball games within a few days. The Company’s portfolio of challenge games will be extensive in the future and will likely include fantasy auto racing, and golf games.

The CDM name, of course, is familiar to anyone in the fantasy sports industry and many veteran players as it has been around from the early days. CDM was acquired by Fanball in 2008 and its games incorporated into the Fanball line.

This acquisition, of course, follows the recent move by STATS to buy a controlling share of Greg Ambrosius’ National Fantasy Championships. We’ll pass along any further info that comes our way.


Magazine Producers Need Labor Resolution by NFL Draft

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Anyone who hopes to watch NFL games in 2011 obviously first has to hope for a new labor deal. If your business includes producing fantasy football magazines, the timeline for such a deal becomes even more important.

The developments — or relative lack thereof — over the past week of negotiations brings that issue into focus. The NFL and its players association extended last week the collective-bargaining deadline, pausing a potential chain of events that could have led to months in the courtroom.

According to SI.com’s Jim Trotter, negotiations nearly reached the breaking point before the extension. That would seem to enhance the importance of this week’s talks in avoiding a summer-long feud, which would crush the fantasy-magazine market for 2011.

Periodical producers have to be on pins and needles this week, right? Well, although all are certainly watching with interest, most have their eyes trained harder on NFL Draft weekend.

“This week on its own does not mean much if there was another week extension and then a deal,” RotoWorld managing editor Gregg Rosenthal told FSB.com. “It will be business as usual as long as there is NFL free agency before the NFL Draft.”

That notion was echoed by RotoWire president Peter Schoenke: “I think the NFL draft is probably a bigger deadline because it’s around the time we usually put together all the specifics for the magazine and we’ll need to see how much the editorial may suffer without off-season transactions.”

That’s the key issue in fantasy circles. The national media might be focused more on the negotiating stumbling blocks, the whereabouts of NFLPA counsel Jeffrey Kessler and the impact it all could have on the 2011 season.

We, however, need free agents to settle somewhere — even more so than usual. The no-CBA rules of 2010 changed the timeline for a league veteran reaching unrestricted free agency, and the result is a free-agent class of more than 500 players. It’s hard enough in a normal NFL calendar to project the outlook for hundreds of players and 32 team situations months ahead of time. Right now, content producers don’t even have the colors necessary to paint those pictures.

“Right now I’m researching cover subjects and the uncertainty of numerous potential free agents makes that a tougher task than in the past,” said Matt McKenzie, the lead editor for Sporting News’ Fantasy Football yearbook. “It also doesn’t help when it comes to our team reports, as there are some teams that have major holes across the board, which makes it hard to key in on their fantasy focuses.”

Of course, any delay that the labor issues shove into the off-season calendar will affect production schedules and could shrink the window for sales. The relative upside — very relative — is that this issue didn’t surprise NFL followers.

We’ve known for two years that winter 2011 would likely bring acrimony, and companies have had time to think about how to treat a potential lockout.

“We have been working under the assumption that a lockout is inevitable,” said Mitch Light, managing editor for Athlon Sports. “This negotiation extension gives us some hope, we still have to plan for all different scenarios.

Light said that his staff is in the process of setting a “drop-dead” date for production to start.

“If the lockout drags on for too long it just doesn’t make sense for us to publish a fantasy magazine,” he said. “Once we come up with that date, we will just sit back and wait.”

Others, however, plan to go to press whether the bickering has ended or not.

“Unfortunately, there’s not much to do but move forward the best we can,” McKenzie said for the SN magazine. “Some of the articles and capsules will have to be written a little looser than years before given the unknown free-agent situation, but I have no doubt we can still put out a quality magazine.”

Rosenthal shared a similar sentiment, relaying RotoWorld’s plan to publish even in an NFL standstill. He did point out, though, that a long struggle could lead to just a single edition being produced rather than the normal two-edition cycle.

Fantasy Index co-owner Bruce Taylor said his company has changed its contract structure for advertisers this year to suit the NFL situation. Normally a “cash-basis business,” Index is instead selling ad space in its fantasy football magazine on a “bill-me-later basis.”

“If the players and owners reach a settlement prior to the NFL draft, then we’ll execute the contracts,” Taylor said. “If an agreement is reached after the NFL draft but before May 15, then we’ll publish as usual, but likely with a smaller press run and a shorter on-sale period. We will reduce our advertising rates in direct proportion with the reduction in press run, and we’ll give advertisers the option to cancel their insertion orders.”

Smaller sales windows and downward adjustments in advertising rates are clearly scenarios that all hope not to encounter. The magazine business is tough enough these days, and fantasy content providers likely face an uphill battle to generate profits from these publications under normal conditions.

This will be a telling week for many throughout our industry, whether it ends with a labor deal or not. A new collective bargaining agreement by Friday would be the ideal, so that all could proceed with annual off-season plans. A further extension would mean more waiting and building anxiety, though it would also foster hope of a deal before the draft. Of course, a breakdown-lockout-lawsuit finish would be bad news.

For now, Fantasy Sports Publications founder Emil Kadlec says it’s not worth dissecting every step of the bargaining process.

“We’re obviously watching with great interest but whether a deal is done this week isn’t vital to our plans,” he told FSB.com. “We believe the deal will be done by the NFL draft which would fit well into our normal timeframe. Worst case, if needed, a one or two week on-sale date change is the most logical contingency. I think it’s best not to get caught up in the day-to-day drama of negotiations.”


CBS Fantasy Buddies Up with MLB.com for 2011

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Right after I posted the “officially baseball time” item, I skipped over to e-mail — yeah, I skip … I figure it beats prancing — and was greeted by a message announcing the fantasy partnership between MLB.com and CBS Sports.

First of all, this partnership is noteworthy because it belonged to Yahoo! in 2010. At least some further interest is added by the fact that CBS’ longtime deal to run the commissioner product for NFL.com ended before the 2010 football season.

Whether it has anything to do with NFL.com pumping up the inclusion of game highlights in its new in-house fantasy product for the season just ended, video highlights is among the selling points in the ad touting the CBS-MLB alignment.

In announcing CBS Sports’ baseball product as the “official” commissioner of MLB for 2011, the ad mentions the following new features:

“- In-game and post-game video highlights for all your players
- Free MLB.com GameDay package
- Enhanced league management tools for the Commissioner
- New look
- Simple drag & drop roster management”

MLB.com GameDay is the audio package that provides local-radio coverage to games in every MLB market, which will apparently be available to everyone in your league if you sign up with CBS.


Navy Specialist Makes Fantasy Trip to Dallas

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

The Packers and Steelers weren’t the only folks who had to win their way to Dallas this weekend.

Navy intelligence specialist JT Freels topped a fantasy football field of fellow military folks to win a trip there courtesy of MWRFantasySports.com.

Freels grabbed a lead shortly after the playoff portion of the RapidDraft.com-powered contest started and managed to hold on despite Peyton Hillis’ end-of-season drought.

“I had a huge Week 12, which vaulted me to first, and I was fortunate to hold on,” Freels said of his squad that ranked 37th heading into Week 12. “My point total dropped each playoff week, and I knew if another team had a huge week they could pass me.”

Fortunately for Freels, no team did, although he couldn’t rest easy until the Eagles-Vikings Tuesday night affair of Week 16 got to halftime. With a 30-point lead on his nearest competitor and Michael Vick and Percy Harvin to that team’s DeSean Jackson, he could finally relax and start making mental plans for North Texas.

Freels took his wife and 14-year-old son with him to enjoy the Super Bowl week festivities, which the Chargers fan called a “once in a lifetime” experience.

“We plan on taking in as much a possible, VIP tour of Cowboy Stadium, NFL experience, JFK Museum, Coors Light Party and I’m sure we’ll add to this,” he said before arriving in big D.

Although his job keeps him too busy to allow for much more fantasy competition these days, Freels said he’d love to expand his participation after retirement. As for next season alone, he says he’ll take Arian Foster at the top of the draft board — which shouldn’t surprise based on the help the Texans back lent to his 2010 title run.