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FanDuel CEO on boost from NFL season, offering political gaming ahead of election

FanDuel CEO Matt King joins Yahoo Finance's On the Move to talk about the NFL season, how the company had to get 'creative' during the pandemic and what FanDuel is doing to reach more women sports fans.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Well, the latest in the NFL action. The Cleveland Browns bested the Cincinnati Bengals last night 35 to 30. With the increase, with the resurgence in on-field and on-court action as more sports get back to work, let's talk about what is happening online in terms of fantasy sports and sports betting as well. Matt King is the CEO of FanDuel. He's joining us from Chicago. And, Matt, what have you seen in terms of flow of traffic onto the site throughout this whole period and now as we are seeing more different sports leagues get back to work?

MATT KING: Sure. So week 1 of NFL was, frankly, our best week ever. We had more activations and sign-ups and more play on the fantasy and sports betting than we've ever seen. And so a lot of that is the carryover of a phenomenal NBA season, but just generally I think it demonstrates the interest in the products that we're offering.

DAN ROBERTS: Matt, Dan Roberts here. You talk about how big week 1 was, and I know your competitor DraftKings also said they had a huge NFL week 1 for new sign-ups. Now that is both for fantasy and for betting. And I guess I'd ask a twofold question. First of all, what's the breakdown there? I know you probably don't break out the exact proportions, but really I'm asking, how soon might the sportsbook user base overcome and get bigger and more important for you guys than the fantasy users?

And then second of all, when you look at the large amount of new user sign-ups you had, how many of those came through promotions or-- or activations, kind of free bets that you guys were offering to get those people in the door?

MATT KING: Sure. So on the first one, you framed the question a bit as it's two different audiences, and the reality is oftentimes it's the same people, right? People love sports, so they love fantasy, they love betting. And obviously, there's a number of people and, frankly, many of our users do both. And so it's not really one versus the other. We look at it as really what we're trying to do is just be the best place for sports fans, and I think we deliver on that, you know, based on the customer feedback that we get.

I think in your second question around, you know, how do you think about how many of them came through on promotions, you know, we pride ourselves on being absurdly fan-friendly, so in this time, you know, we got promotions for everybody. So we are doing a lot of promotional activity. But really what it's all about is enhancing what's going on in the game itself.

And so whether that's the big game of the night, the big player of the night, we look to lean into the story that's going on in the game because really what we're trying to do is deliver fans and enhance sports experience.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Hey, Matt, I was curious, in the breakdown of the people who are coming to FanDuel, is it the stereotype, you know, the 20- to 30-year-old guy, or are there a lot of women? Especially because women love sports as much as guys, and being locked in at home right now and not getting the same sports that they can get, I would imagine this is an outlet.

MATT KING: We definitely see, you know, a growing number of women. We've done a lot to try to broaden our appeal. I'd still say we're probably skewed a little bit more-- more male than female, but I think we're doing a better job attracting women. And some of that's through how we market, some of it's about the product breadth that we offer, and some of it's also just about, you know, the message that we're delivering.

DAN ROBERTS: Matt, where do you assess right now how the big pro leagues feel toward legal gambling? Because they've certainly varied in terms of how overtly they have embraced it. Of course, the NFL is allowing individual teams to make sponsorship partnerships with casino sponsors now, which is new, and some of them have come out and kind of rapidly announced that. But all across the sports landscape, every day it feels like a new partnership is announced. But the NFL, of course, more than any other league still kind of resisting overtly calling it sports betting partnerships.

MATT KING: You know, it's a good question. I think what I would say is, the reality is that all the sports leagues have accepted and, frankly, have a much better understanding than they did five years ago about the role that sports betting can play in enhancing the fan experience as well as the size of the illegal market and the need to put the illegal market out of business. So I would say from a kind of belief statement, all the leagues are in a very similar place.

I think the question that everybody's trying to answer is, what's the right way to incorporate sports betting into the fan experience, recognizing that a lot of fans are going to be interested, but not all fans are going to be interested? And there's also lots of young fans out there that you don't want to be overt in front of them.

And so I think the differences in policies that you're seeing aren't necessarily a difference in beliefs, it's more about a difference in, you know, how people want to introduce sports betting to their fan base. But I think if you fast forward five years, you know, all the leagues are going to be in a very similar place.

JULIE HYMAN: Finally, Matt, I-- I want to ask you, going back a few months before we had sports in the US resuming, where the sort of flow was on the site in terms of were you seeing people getting more interested in cricket in India, for example? I mean, were-- were people kind of getting creative, right? Just like there was speculation about, well, if people couldn't do sports, they were investing in stocks for the sort of gamification aspect there. What were you seeing?

MATT KING: So we-- I was incredibly proud of how creative our team got. You know, we did a lot of free-to-play games on everything from, you know, Madden simulations to other things. So we were just looking to engage fans, and we saw a ton of engagement in things like that. We did see probably a couple hundred percent increase and interest in the international sports.

So particularly, when European soccer came back first, we saw a huge uptake in how interested people got in soccer. You saw Korean baseball and other things when that came-- came back earlier, and you saw a lot of interest there. And so I think you're exactly right, Julie, that there was just a lot of interest across the board because people were bored. They were looking for stuff to do, and they were dying for sports.

DAN ROBERTS: Matt, just to end on something fun with you, people probably forget that FanDuel way back when it began as a political prediction game, Hubdub. And I remember founder Nigel Eccles a couple of years ago had-- had mentioned that it would interest him eventually for FanDuel to-- to get back to that and add a feature like that. Is that something you guys are looking at? We're about to approach an election. Is that something we could ever see FanDuel start doing?

MATT KING: So we did actually during the Democratic primaries a Democratic debate fantasy that we saw a ton of interest in. It was free to play for regulatory reasons, and you'll see a lot more political stuff from us, but it'll largely be free to play. But it's a lot of fun, and so we're going to definitely engage people that way.

JULIE HYMAN: Something regarding the election that's fun. Please bring it on, Matt. Matt King is CEO of FanDuel. Thank you for your time. Appreciate it.