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MLB commissioner: DraftKings and FanDuel are 'survivors'

Daniel Roberts
·Editor-at-Large

Even if you’ve followed the saga of daily fantasy sports companies DraftKings and FanDuel and their recent court battles with various state attorneys general, you may not know that the private tech startups are already so embedded in the pro sports world that both Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association have equity stakes in one of the two companies.

And now the companies are seeking to merge, which would mean that MLB and NBA would become partners in the same entity, unless either league tries to get out before the merger. MLB got its stake in DraftKings as a result of an early, league-wide partnership it made with the Boston-based company; it did not make an investment in DraftKings.

On Wednesday, we got an update on how pro baseball feels about its connection to DraftKings, and its potential connection, soon, to a combined company: it feels bullish.

Speaking at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in New York on Wednesday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that DraftKings and FanDuel “have regrouped, I think they’ve refocused on what their product is, and I think that a merger would be helpful for both companies, if in fact that’s what happens.”

Manfred continued to praise the progress the companies have made: “We think they’re survivors. Both companies. No matter what happens from a merger perspective, daily fantasy is going to be part of the landscape out there, and has sort of readjusted its focus and is going to survive.”

The rise of daily fantasy sports has been seen as a boon to fan engagement for NFL, MLB and others—the theory is that people end up watching a game they would not have otherwise watched, because they have a player on their fantasy roster. Manfred said fantasy sports in general “remains a source of fan engagement,” and said the newer, daily variety (which allows users to re-draft and enter new contests on a daily or weekly basis, rather than sticking with one team for the full season) is “more attuned with the way that people live their lives, maybe more helpful to baseball in some ways.”

Manfred also addressed the broader issue of legalized sports betting, an effort that many feel has gained ground in part thanks to the rise of daily fantasy. “We are reexamining our stance on gambling,” he said, a comment that received instant attention in sports media.

You can watch Manfred’s full interview here.

Disclaimer: Yahoo offers its own daily fantasy sports product.

Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business and technology. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

More from the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit:

MLB commissioner: We are reexamining our stance on gambling

MLB commissioner: Disney deal will help define baseball’s future

Shark Tank’s Daymond John: If you’re a scared entrepreneur, you’re already dead