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Sports Illustrated launches FanNation for daily fantasy sports games

The unit of Time Inc. partnered with TopLine Game Labs to create the app, which features a suite of daily games devoted to baseball, football, basketball and hockey and allows fans to compete for bragging rights and cash prizes. The app, available from the Apple app store, and on desktop, comes as sports fans of all stripes increasingly access mobile devices to heighten their sporting event experience.

"We cover fantasy sports, we write about it, but the thing that's been a hole in our digital product suite has been an actual fantasy game," said Jim DeLorenzo, vice president and general manager of SI Digital

"Looking at the marketplace, we decided it made a lot of sense for us to go into daily fantasy. People can play multiple games per day but you can pick it up and put it down," he said. "It's a segment of fantasy sports that's starting to really take off. We think it's about to explode and get even bigger." 

Fluid and efficient
The number of fantasy-sports participants in the United States and Canada has risen to more than 41 million, according to Ipso Public Affairs. The figure represents a 13 percent gain from the results of a 2012 study, and a 25 percent jump from 2010.

Among the drivers of the steady, continued increase are mobile-based and daily fantasy games. 

The app?s first released game, Baseball Throwdown, is played by creating a roster made up of three major league players ? pitcher, infielder, and outfielder ? who the fan believes will exceed their stat projections for that day?s game.

The fan that accepts a challenge must select three players as well, but cannot choose any players already selected by their opponent. Each contest lasts for one day and is tied to that day?s scheduled professional baseball games. 

By centering the contests on one day?s worth of games, fans must leverage their baseball knowledge of specific matchups, such as a hitter?s performance against a specific pitcher, rather than relying on seasonal average. 

Players can challenge friends or random opponents to contests via text, email or post to Facebook or Twitter.

Video anywhere
FanNation is the latest mobile product introduced by New York-based Time for SI. The aim is to showcase information on SI?s digital platforms more fluidly and efficiently while broadening the range of products and services to reach sports fans on mobile platforms.

SI recently unveiled a revamped responsive Web site, at which time it said its future plans could include a mobile application.

Time has said the SI Web site?s re-construction aimed to create the ability to move content tiles, change content quickly and show video anywhere. Focusing on graphics and social connectivity, the redesign placed information that is popular with mobile users, such as scores, front and center for quick and easy consumption.

Time-owned InStyle magazine?s mobile and Web site redesign tapped into social media, original content and personalized news feeds to take advantage of the growing traffic from smartphones and tablets. The focus on social media is meant to address the multiple ways that readers are discovering and sharing content. For example, during the most recent Oscar awards, social sharing was six times higher than average (see story)

Challenging friends to a contest is a key activity on the app. 

The app is the third piece in a digital strategy that also included the launch of a video streaming sports-highlights network.

"We want to be able to best serve the sports fan no matter what they're doing online, whether that's watching videos, or playing fantasy or consuming the award-winning content from SI through," Mr. Lorenzo said. "Everything that we're pumping out now we're certainly making sure it's mobile first, then seeing how it extends back to the desktop." 

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter for Mobile Marketer, New York.