Fantasy football, baseball... movies?
According to Forbes, the Fantasy Football industry is a $70 billion industry, so it's no wonder why the National Football League promotes it so heavily. The fantasy game has changed a lot over the past 20 years, as it went from checking the box scores in the USA Today, to pulling up analysis and scores on your iPhone.
Fans still have their favorite teams, but the way they watch the game has changed because of fantasy. Ten years ago, few outside of Jacksonville and Tennessee would have cared about last year's Thursday Night Football game featuring the two struggling franchises. Because of fantasy, viewers were glued to the TV to see if Denard Robinson or Bishop Sankey would put up points for their fantasy team.
Fantasy has revolutionized not just football, but basketball, baseball, hockey and even golf.
But what would happen if the world of fantasy entered into the world of Hollywood? Thanks to ESPN's Matthew Berry, senior fantasy analyst, we're about to find out.
Berry, who started out as a Hollywood writer with credits for shows such as "Married with Children," created www.fantasymovieleague.com just two weeks ago.
"My sons and I have been playing a version of it for years. We've kept track on an excel sheet," Berry said during a phone interview. "Everyone knows I'm a fantasy freak. I've been playing since I was 14 years old.
"I always said if I found a way to keep track of it, I would. I always thought it was interesting with my Hollywood background."
Similarly to fantasy football, users of the site have until 9 a.m. Friday each week to draft up to eight movies for their "team," or fantasy Cineplex, as Berry refers to it. Each movie has a price attached to it, as each user has 1,000 units (e.g. dollars) to spend on the movies. How well each movie does in the box office is how well your team or Cineplex will do.
For fantasy fans, it sounds like Daily Fantasy Leagues or DFS, doesn't it?
"Salary cap version of fantasy has been around for a while. People familiar with DFS will look at it and it will seem familiar," Berry said. "The salary cap prices of movies vary for how long they have been out, which we have an algorithm we use. People can pick different strategies including stars and scrubs or just pick movies that are in the middle of the pack. We've been playing internally and seeing what people choose for strategy is interesting."
Berry personally prefers the stars and scrubs strategy, as he said he will go with the bigger movies until he can't anymore.
Like his job at ESPN, Berry said there will be advice columns that go along with fantasy movie league on the site with people in tune to the fantasy industry, as well as Hollywood.
"There are advice columnists on the site that give out their picks. They are from people who are well-versed in Hollywood and fantasy," Berry said. "Their real life job is in Hollywood, but they understand fantasy sports. They understand everything that goes into producing box office results."
The contests, which are free to sign up for, have been well received so far, according to Berry, and there are even prizes awarded for the winners.
"It's been great. We've been up for less than two weeks, and more than 4,000 people are playing with us. People enjoy it and it's been exciting. I've never seen that many people care about 'Age of Adaline' before," Berry said with a laugh. "It's all 100 percent free. We do have movie gift certificates that we are giving away for prizes, though."
While Berry did say there will always be a free version of the game for users, he added that he will "explore everything under the sun" when asked if it's something he'd like to turn into a paid game.
What's good about the Fantasy Movie League is that it also allows those who aren't sports fans to understand the process of fantasy sports games, while applying it to something of their own interest.
"If she's (my fiancée, Blayne Sheaffer) with you, she understands how important fantasy sports are to you, but it can be hard to connect. She'll be able to understand the game plan behind fantasy," Berry said. "Everyone has an opinion of 'San Andreas' or 'Entourage.' Everyone has an opinion about how movies will do. Fantasy sports have changed real-life sports watching. With Fantasy Movie League, you suddenly care if 'Pitch Perfect 2' can keep its audience. How much will 'Mad Max' drop? You find yourself rooting for movies. It's great."
Berry, who is the host of the 06010 Fantasy Focus Football Podcast, an analyst on Fantasy Football Now, as well as many other ESPN shows, was also a New York Times bestseller for his book "Fantasy Life," which was picked up by Fox to be turned into a show starring Kevin Connolly. It should be no surprise then that Berry would venture out into something like this, but he said his main focus is on his job at ESPN.
"The Fantasy Life TV show is not on the air for the fall, so we'll see what happens with that. My primary job is at ESPN, and I love working for them," Berry said. "This is on the side with their blessing and awareness. I own a website called Rotopass.com, which is compiled of fantasy sites such as ESPN Insider, Rotowire, Rotoviz and more. I like to keep busy and active. We'll see what the future brings."