Deals

Yahoo bets big on fantasy sports, acquires one-man startup Bignoggins

Image Credit: Screenshot Bignoggins

Yahoo has acquired mobile fantasy sports startup Bignoggins.

Bignoggins is the production company behind Fantasy Monster and Draft Monster. Fantasy Monster manages multiple fantasy sports teams from one app. It aggregates all fantasy sports and providers, supports all major fantasy sports, and gives users access to stats. Players can edit lineups, search for players, conduct trades, check scores and standings, view injury reports, and stay on top of sports news from within Fantasy Monster.

Founder Jerry Shen is a software engineer who spent years working in the defense industry before building an iPhone app as a side project. He began making more money from his app than his corporate job and quit to become a full-time game developer in 2010. Shen never hired any outside employees or took outside funding. He and his wife set off on an around-the-world trip in 2011 and did most of the work and development of Bignoggins while traveling. The app eventually became the No. 1 paid sports app on iTunes, with over a million downloads.

Neither Yahoo nor Bignoggins has disclosed the amount of the deal, but Shen will join Yahoo Fantasy.

“After many years as a free agent, I’d like to officially announce that Yahoo has picked me up off waivers,” Shen said in a blog post. “I’m excited to join a team of all-stars to take fantasy sports to the next level. I’ve been playing Yahoo Fantasy since high school and have wanted to work here since college, so this is really a dream come true for me.”

Yahoo Fantasy Sports is one of the largest fantasy sports providers. Players compete against each other using statistics from real-world competitions, and the API provides data on leagues, teams, and player information. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association found that there were 35 million fantasy sports players in the U.S. and Canada in 2010 and estimates the total market at $5 billion per year. Market research firm Ipsos found that Americans spend an estimated $800 million per year on fantasy sports media products and services. These sites are incredibly popular and attract hefty sums in advertising revenue as well as league fees and paywall. They are a big money maker for Yahoo as well as fellow major providers ESPN and CBS Sports.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has made a big push to increase Yahoo’s presence on mobile. She announced earlier this year that she wanted to kill off 80 percent of Yahoo’s mobile apps and focus on refining products that are successful. Thirty percent of players participated in fantasy sports from their mobile device in 2011, and that number is on the rise as fantasy sports is one of the major uses of the “second screen” during NFL broadcasts. The acquisition of Bignoggins will help Yahoo maintain a robust mobile fantasy sports platform and a competitive edge.

“You decide what the apps are, and then you migrate apps into each other, and some of the apps go away,” she said. “You have to whittle it down. I think 12 to 15 is the right number. Ultimately, you want to not trouble users by making them download and install too many applications, but at the same time many applications are single-purpose.”

Bignoggins’ technology supports consolidation along these lines. Yahoo has recently made a number of other mobile acquisitions, including Alike, Snip.it, and OnTheAir, as well as buying media startups Summly and Tumblr. The company also updated its mobile sports apps in June.


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