- What makes Daily Number different from other DFS apps? There isn't a budget, participants only have to beat one score and the company was co-founded by Richard Sherman.
Tom McAuley wants you to give daily fantasy another try this football season. A fantasy player himself since the Michael Irvin days, he too saw the deluge of advertising in 2015 and felt intimidated by the expert competition (a study found that, for baseball, 1% of users were collecting 91% of the prize money). He’s hoping for a different story with his new app, Daily Number, which launches later this month.
Here’s the gist: Rather than build a lineup each Sunday based around a salary cap with the goal of outperforming other players, users have no limits on who they can put on their team and the goal is only to outperform a preset score or “daily number.” The skill factor is baked into the prizes; the fewer top-tier players you select—determined by a one-to-five star rating set each week—the higher your winnings will be if you top the number. So it’s just you and whoever you want at each position against a single target. “We’re simplifying the DFS format for the everyday sports fan while maintaining the core gameplay principals that have made fantasy sports so massively popular,” McAuley said in announcing the new format.
FanDuel also now offers a Beat the Score mode, but it has decided to keep the salary cap for those competitions, with the full prize money divided evenly among all competitors who exceed the target score.
In prioritizing simplicity, Daily Number surrenders much of the social, competitive aspect that drove fantasy’s early growth, but co-founder Richard Sherman thinks that might actually be an addition by subtraction. The 49ers cornerback last year said, “A lot of fans out there have looked at players less like people because of fantasy football.” Given the money involved, Daily Number will probably also contribute to social media abuse of underperforming players, but Sherman is hopeful that “It’s not as crazy. Since you’re not going against other people, that human trash talk element won’t be as severe.”
For years, athletes have discussed (mostly jokingly) getting a cut from all of the money they are helping fans win through fantasy. Sherman is now trying to make that a reality by taking an equity stake in the company. He will be involved mainly as an ambassador and spokesperson. He got permission from the league and joined earlier this year, though McAuley has been working to bring his vision to fruition for much longer.
He spent 2015 tweaking the prize value formulas and navigating the necessary regulatory steps. Then in November of that year, the New York attorney general sought an injunction against FanDuel and DraftKings, alleging that they were illegal bookmakers. The companies ultimately agreed to a $12 million settlement for false advertising, “And for the next 12 to 18 months,” McAuley says, “The well went dry. No one was touching our space.”
It wasn’t until this May that the Austin-based startup was able to secure a merchant account, meaning it could accept credit and debit cards. That same month, the Supreme Court made its sports betting decision, activating investors once again. So now Daily Number, available in 23 states at launch, will have to compete with robust sports gambling outposts in several of those states. But the groundswell could end up being a benefit. If fans gravitate toward McAuley’s simpler game, he may have arrived in time to develop an increasingly valuable userbase just before traditional sports gambling picks up momentum.