Of Fantasy Hockey and Why Everybody's Suddenly Doing APIs

If you aren’t yet fully acquainted with the concept of fantasy sports, it may not be entirely your fault. Most of us enthusiasts feel that as a pastime it’s still somewhat too stigmatizing to be announced during a dinner party, or at least before the occasion has progressed to the digestif. (Although calling it “Dungeons and Dragons for jocks”, as some outsiders seem to do, is a little unnecessary.) It is one of those digital sub-cultures that in some form has existed for several decades, but which started to grow seriously only when broadband accesses had become commonplace.And by now it has grown to an extent that as an industry it generates today about$5 billion in revenue.

Surprised? So was I when I read that. Enlightened, I finally realized that outside of our own fantasy-hockey cave there’s a whole valley of similar dimly-lit caves, inhabited by similarly fixated dwellers.

Interestingly,CBS, one of the industry’s biggest players (the companies that essentially provide the users with the template to set up and run a league, and then a statistical engine to feed numbers into it), has decided to launch an API to third-party developers. And furthermore, it will also open a storefront through which the developers can distribute the apps they come up with.

That is promising. Fantasy sports is a numbers game, so there is a natural demand for various tools that allow you to better evaluate and track the players’ performance. The Internet is half-full of sites that offeropinionsandanalysison the recent moves and related topics, but since each fantasy pool tends to be different, in terms of rules and stats categories that are used to calculate the scores, they can seldom address all needs that individual participants may have. For example, our league has blocked shots as one of its eleven scoring categories; blocked shots however aren’t yet a regular category in most other leagues, so we have to take a lot of the existing player rankings and analyses with a good pinch of salt. Having an app whose player-ranking algorithms could better address the peculiarities of each different league would remove much of the guesswork involved in evaluating players.

As such, CBS is a prime example of why everybody's doing APIs in the first place. They allow differentiating and improving the product/service with someone else doing most of the hard work.The successful third parties may also generate substantial revenue for the partner platform, but that doesn’t change the fact that their biggest value is in making things better for the end-user.​​