The sport the Long Tail forgot

I like Chris Anderson’s packaging of the Long Tail a great deal, in particular his method of helping the idea thrive via his Long Tail blog. I may have stumbled into an exception to the Long Tail idea — fantasy hockey. I’ve played fantasy hockey for years on, and elsewhere on the Web. It’s becoming an after-thought sport, the kind of thing that the big networks like Yahoo no longer seem interested in maintaining. For instance, the Yahoo! draft window lasts for less than two weeks, and closes several days before the season starts. As recently as last year, they were giving more draft days and drafting past the opening of the season. Servers and storage are supposed to be cheap, their costs incremental. That does not seem to be reflected in what the site is doing this year.

But at least Yahoo is having drafts. ESPN is showing every sign of being on the verge of killing the sport entirely. We’re two weeks from the season opener, and it has neither started drafts nor posted anything saying what’s going on. I’m in a keeper league, which means I get to retain several players from my team the year before, but there’s no sign of my team on ESPN’s fantasy sports site. The message boards are filled with people soliciting teams to come play in Yahoo leagues. Some people claim to have heard from ESPN that the drafts will begin this week, and that ESPN will continue to charge money for fantasy hockey. Other fantasy sports on ESPN have gone free, perhaps in response to things like Yahoo!. Perhaps that’s a good long tail idea — people will pay for access to niche sports. But apparently we can’t cover ESPN’s server and storage costs, or it just assumes we’ll put up with its silence and what looks like technical incompetence and pay anyway. It had major problems last year, as well. Granted, it had big problems with fantasy baseball, as well, but shouldn’t the Web allow it to take advantage of what it learned from baseball (and from its poor start to hockey last year) and make things run more smoothly this season?

Maybe in the Long Tail economy, we can get our niche products, but we won’t enjoy the experience.

2 thoughts on “The sport the Long Tail forgot

Leave a Reply