It’s been a big year for ESPN Fantasy. Tournament Challenge and Fantasy Football set new records with more entries and players than ever. The new ESPN Fantasy App joined the ESPN App as one of the Top 2 apps in sports. And ESPN televised the first Fantasy Football Marathon, driving more fans to sign up during each day of the event than any other day in the 20-year history of ESPN Fantasy Football.
The hope is 2017 will be just as big and the ESPN Fantasy team is starting the new year a little differently with a brand new game. It doesn’t have much to do with sports, although some would argue the competition, strategy and emotions are all the same.
Get ready for the ABC’s The Bachelor Fantasy League developed by ESPN! The season premiere of the show is Monday, Jan. 2 (8 p.m. ET on ABC) and you can join a Fantasy Bachelor League group here. This how-to video will help fantasy newbies. (ESPN and ABC are both owned by the Walt Disney Company.)
Front Row popped a few questions to Chris Jason, senior director, ESPN Fantasy Product Management, on how ESPN made the fantasy jump from ballers to bachelors. (And, by the way, The Bachelor, Nick Viall, is a faithfully devoted Green Bay Packers fan.)
Where did the idea of building a fantasy game for The Bachelor come from?
We had discussions with ABC during the summer around building a game that would serve Bachelor fans who play fantasy games and bracket games. ABC wanted to enhance the experience for fans around the show. We knew we could build a good game pretty quickly using the infrastructure and technologies we’ve built for our own games. But this was a great opportunity to introduce fantasy games to a new audience — women, and more casual gamers in general.
How was the development of The Bachelor game similar and/or different from ESPN games?
The dynamic of working with ABC is interesting but not all that different from bigger cross-platform initiatives we’ve done within ESPN, like Tournament Challenge during the NCAA basketball tournaments and Fantasy Football during the 28-hour marathon last August. The key is knowing that our most successful games will be the ones that are both culturally relevant and aligned with our other programming. This is a big reason why our Fantasy Football and Tournament Challenge games are successful. So, building a game around The Bachlelor — one of television’s top social media and water cooler shows — is something we know can be successful by applying the same playbook we use for sports events.
What’s in your playbook?
No big secrets. The core tenets of what we do for ESPN Fantasy Sports— appealing to potential players, making it easy for them to get started, giving them reasons to keep coming back throughout the duration of the event — remain the same. Whether it’s Week 10 of the NFL season or Episode 6 of The Bachelor, our approach is very similar even though the aesthetics of the game and the target user might be different.
Anything new learned while creating The Bachelor game?
From a pure product, engineering and user experience standpoint, our ESPN team really enjoyed doing the work for this game. It is definitely outside the day-to-day of all the heavy stats and highly complex game engines that support our season-long games. Many of the user experience and game play concepts used in this game — highly visual, very simple to play, social — are core elements of games we’re working on right now to bring into the Fantasy App.