Risk-taker, entrepreneur, social marketing guru, fantasy sports expert: With these aptly fit descriptions, it is not a surprise that Ryan Berger is one of the owners of www.hotboxsports.com, the most innovative fantasy sports website currently on the market. Ryan recently took the time to discuss the site and his involvement with BackSportsPage.com managing editor Seth Kamens.
Seth Kamens: How did you initially get involved in www.hotboxsports.com?
Ryan Berger: I was approached about 18 months ago by the founders of Hotbox Sports. They had questions about bringing their product to the market and how to get the right people on board from both a team and league standpoint. This is not only in regards to the NBA, but also the NHL and Major League Baseball. I looked at the site not only in the social marketing capacity, but also as a basketball fan and fantasy sports enthusiast. I thought that Hotbox Sports brought about an interesting and different dynamic to how fantasy sports should actually be played. At that point, I saw an opportunity to acquire an ownership in the site and have been actively involved going forward.
Seth Kamens: What differentiates www.hotboxsports.com from the typical fantasy sports website?
Ryan Berger: I am happy that you asked that question. One of the most important things that you need to understand when you are looking at the current fantasy sports landscape is the disproportionate numbers in regards to fantasy football. There are currently 30 million people actively involved in fantasy sports and 27 million play football. Given that percentage, there seems to be a great opportunity for the other major fantasy sports. That being given, I would venture to say that the current basketball models used by sites such as AOL, Yahoo, and CBSSportsline are antiquated and practically dead. The Hotbox formula is quite different and in fact emulates the method that fantasy football has utilized so successfully.
In a given week, there are two play periods; Monday through Wednesday and Thursday through Sunday. However, during each period you can only use a player for one game. For example, if I had Lebron James and the Heat played the Suns on Monday and the Spurs on Wednesday, I would only be able to use him for one of those games. This is no different from making a choice on whether to start Peyton Manning against the Ravens or Sam Bradford against the Lions. You need to choose the player who for one game would have the highest fantasy potential. This formula has never been utilized in fantasy basketball. The current method of playing fantasy basketball was to never take your starters out of the lineup. Our method allows for more involvement and the potential for a deeper edge of your seat attachment. For example, if you are down 30 points going into Wednesday night and you have Dirk Nowitzki, it should have the same impact of being down 30 and having Randy Moss on Monday Night Football. You are going to need to watch the game. The formula drives home the idea of start/sit, which is how fantasy football has become so successful. There is a very basic law of large numbers stating that the more games you play, the closer you will be able to get to your average. However, for one game anything can happen. Kobe could score 100 points or 10 and you will have to make judgments on his best opportunity to do the former. This is a real interesting dynamic and Hotbox Sports is at the forefront of this fantasy revolution.
Seth Kamens: So you firmly believe that with 90% of active fantasy players involved in football that there is a market for basketball, it just hasn’t been properly utilized.
Ryan Berger: As I stated earlier, the current fantasy basketball structure is dead. It simply doesn’t allow for the emotional attachment that fantasy football currently holds. Instead of watching for Tom Brady with your friends and competitors at a bar on a Sunday afternoon, you will meet them on a Tuesday night to check out Greg Oden. This idea is unprecedented in the fantasy basketball arena. Furthermore, there is an enormous international audience that has yet to be tapped. You can make a legitimate argument that half of the top 20 players come from abroad. Europe, South America, Asia….this is where NBA interest has most dramatically increased. When you have 300 million people watching Yi versus Yao, those numbers dwarf the number of people watching the Super Bowl. With this obvious interest, entrance into this fantasy market is too good of an opportunity to resist.
Seth Kamens: In regards to international expansion, is fantasy soccer a potential possibility?
Ryan Berger: We are currently in the midst of building fantasy soccer and have come up with a unique method for scoring purposes. Instead of taking players that never score or assist on goals, we can customize the teams by nationality (i.e. only choosing Brazilian players) or other methods. Admittedly, this is against the norm but we see it as a viable option in a market yet to really be developed.
Seth Kamens: The service is free, correct?
Ryan Berger: Hotbox Sports is entirely free. Similarly to other sites, you can choose either a public league or run a private league for your friends.
Seth Kamens: Finally, what is the long term goal for www.hotboxsports.com?
Ryan Berger: Our ultimate goal is to be the premier name in fantasy sports. Beyond even what we have discussed, Hotbox Sports is looking at customizing fantasy games for actual teams. With many teams having great difficulty getting even their hardcore fans to the arena, we think that this may be another method to gain interest. For instance, the Charlotte Bobcats fans can use each of their players once over a week or a month. You would have to utilize your knowledge of the Bobcats to know when to use players. If the Bobcats were playing at Miami, you may want to use their bench players since a blowout is probable and that’s when they get the most playing time. We would like to work with the teams and hopefully get the league’s attention. Obviously, the NBA has its own fantasy platform, but it is relatively irrelevant. This could reignite such interest in fantasy basketball. With a patented fantasy formula and out of the box thinking, hotboxsports.com should be a leader in the fantasy realm for years to come.