ESPN is ending all fantasy sports prize leagues. Fantasy baseball, basketball, and football league owners received e-mails from ESPN about those prize leagues and how the site is bringing them to an end. The main sign-up page for ESPN fantasy baseball has also undergone a transformation on Friday, February 26, showcasing the three free options that ESPN will continue to provide baseball enthusiasts.
ESPN has been running prize-eligible fantasy sports leagues for a number of years. Users paid a small fee to compete against other owners in sports like baseball, basketball, and football. The winner of each league earned prize points that could be used in exchange for smaller prizes or used to accrue much larger ones. At one point, those small prizes included trophies for winning the league or t-shirts for that particular sport. Finishing among the best owners on the site could yield extravagant prizes like large televisions or other electronics.
ESPN fantasy sports also had a Winner’s Circle, where users could save up points for even larger events or experiences. One such prize was getting two tickets to watch the ESPYs in person. Those points will no longer be redeemable for prizes in this sweeping move that ESPN is making and all prize leagues will come to an end with the finish of the current fantasy basketball and fantasy hockey seasons. Some information about the Winner’s Circle points was discussed in an e-mail that ESPN sent out.
“The current Fantasy Basketball and Fantasy Hockey seasons will be completed as normal, but starting with Fantasy Baseball 2016, prize eligible leagues will no longer be offered. Regular free Fantasy Baseball, Football, Hockey and Basketball will still be offered.
“For each prize eligible team you have redeemed Winner’s Circle points for, we are offering to reimburse you with a $25.00 Best Buy gift card. For example, if you redeemed points for three prize eligible teams, you will be reimbursed with a $75.00 Best Buy gift card.
“Please respond to this email confirming you would like us to reimburse you for your teams.”
By ESPN ending all prize eligible fantasy sports leagues, it opens a hole in the marketplace. CBS Sports is still doing its premium fantasy leagues, where owners can pay an entry fee to win cash over season-long games. CBS works with FanDuel now, though, which is a daily fantasy sports site. Daily fantasy sports like those provided by FanDuel and DraftKings have begun to completely take over the market. This could be a reason why ESPN is deciding to bow out of the fantasy sports game. It could also indicate that the company has a deal with one of the daily sites.
Many states are working hard to regulate fantasy sports, with some making moves earlier than others. In the state of Washington, laws were put in place that haven’t allowed residents to play in the money or prize games for a while now. It happened before FanDuel or DraftKings were even created, meaningWashington residents haven’t been part of the daily fantasy craze. Other states like Illinois are trying hard to regulate the online business, rather than simply ban what could be a lucrative business for states.
Is the end of fantasy sports for money or prizes on the horizon? The move by ESPN to end all of its prize eligible leagues could indicate that the company is trying to get ahead of possible legal battles. It could also simply indicate that the company has figured out a way to make more money by working with a company such as DraftKings or FanDuel to bring in more profits. For fantasy sports users trying to work toward top prizes on ESPN, though, the door has officially closed.
[Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Microsoft]