Fantasy football leagues have added a new dimension to watching National Football League (NFL) games. In fact, fantasy football has become so popular that NFL.com is applying its considerable online resources to make sure that fantasy football is played on its own site rather than on any of a hundred others.
A big part of that effort revolves around giving fans access to statistics and analytics tools that they can use to figure out which players to draft and keep. In the postseason, NFL.com even went so far as to create a separate fantasy game event that involved just the teams that made the playoffs.
The culmination of that event is, of course, this Sunday, when the Seattle Seahawks meet the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Using analytics software from SAP running on the SAP in-memory HANA platform, the league is making its online fantasy football league a mainstream part of the Super Bowl event. For example, the NFL is partnering with SAP to set up a kiosk on Super Bowl Boulevard in New York City, in which fans can access statistics and analytics tools on NFL.com.
What most people might not appreciate, however, is the role that APIs are playing in helping to drive the league’s fantasy football strategy. As part of an effort to get more fans to sign up for the league’s offering, NFL.com has created private APIs that allow its fantasy football league to be accessed from within a game running on a Microsoft Xbox 360 console or an application running on a set top box from DISH Network.
Cory Mummery, senior director of product for NFL Digital Media, says that going forward, NFL.com will extend the reach of its fantasy football league by increasing the number of partners allowed to access fantasy football applications and services running on NFL.com.
NFL Fantasy Football is an example of how online sites are starting to combine analytics and APIs to create a rich set of data-driven applications that not only transforms the customer experience but also engages customers in a way that makes them want to share more data about themselves, which informs a rich set of Big Data analytics applications.
More often than not, those Big Data analytics applications are going to find themselves being invoked more by other applications using an API than by any number of end users via HTTP.