fox.sportsDraftKings, a leading player in the booming fantasy sports business, announced Monday that it raised $300 million from a group of investors that includes Fox Sports and three major sports leagues.

Winning support from the leagues — Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer — “is an incredible milestone for us,” said Jason Robins, chief executive of DraftKings.

Robins said a key focus in the next couple of years will be expanding DraftKings’ customer base outside the US, in part by adding sports like rugby and cricket that are popular with overseas fans. Equally important, DraftKings wants to build the global audience for sports like baseball and American football, which are not widely watched outside the US.

“Fantasy sports are ultimately a social experience,” Robins said in a telephone interview. 

“What we’re trying to achieve is to create a truly global sports platform where people come together, compete and interact from around the world.”

Robins said a key component of growth will be an expanded partnership with Fox Sports, part of  Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox media giant. Robins confirmed plans to increase advertising on Fox, but declined to release details.

In parallel with the equity investment, Fox Sports and DraftKings have a separate commercial deal in which DraftKings plans to spend $250 million advertising on Fox Sports and other Fox platforms, according to a person familiar with the deal. 

Once a low-key hobby enjoyed by sports enthusiasts and academics, fantasy sports have grown into a multibillion-dollar business in which DraftKings regularly offers prizes of $1 million or more. 

In fantasy sports, participants create their own teams, selecting players from a real-world sports league like the National Basketball Association, National Football League or England’s Premier League football. Usually they pay an entry fee and become eligible to win cash.

As real games are played, a fantasy team competes and is ranked against others based on the actual-game performance of its players.

The activity has been embraced by sports leagues and broadcasters because fantasy sports players watch more live sports and consume more sportsnews than the average fan. 

The hobby is popular with the coveted 18-34 age demographic, who often use a smartphone or tablet to track their performance in the fantasy league while keeping an eye on a broadcast of a real-life game.

Earlier this month, Yahoo became the first larger technology company to enter the business, unveiling a fantasy sports program with cash prizes that is playable on smartphones.

DraftKings is estimated to be worth about $1.2 billion, according to a person familiar with the situation. – Agence France-Presse

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