The Economic Impact of Fantasy Football

In honor of the NFL season being back on I thought I’d highlight some interesting numbers on the economic impact of fantasy football in the workplace.

Sure, the season technically kicked off Wednesday when the Cowboys beat the Giants, but today is when it really gets rolling.

For starters, an article on AdWeek argued that fantasy football is a $5 billion business, with the majority of the benefit going to advertising and media companies.

When all is said and done, I suspect that the true impact is considerably larger, as the fantasy football craze has helped drive the huge popularity (and profitability) of the NFL itself. Unfortunately, these indirect impacts are hard to measure, and it’s also difficult to separate cause from effect.

But it’s not all good news, as an estimated 22.3 million employed fantasy football “owners” spend at least an hour a week managing their rosters. Given an average pay rate of $19.33/hour (according to BLS statistics) that works out to just short of $431 million in lost productivity per week.

Looking across a typical 15 week season* that adds up to somewhere in the neighborhood of $6.5 billion in lost productivity. Here again, the impact is probably greater given that the numbers above were based only on average pay rates and didn’t include the costs associated with other benefits.

Then again… It’s been argued that things like fantasy football are a positive influence in the workplace, as they increase camaraderie amongst employees, create opportunities for making business contacts, etc.

What do you think? Do things like fantasy football, March Madness pools, etc. have a net positive or negative impact from an economic perspective?

*Note: Yes, the NFL regular season runs 17 weeks, but fantasy leagues tend to wind down early so as not to be impacted by things like teams resting their starters after clinching their playoff spot.

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