Byline: Tim Lemke, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
While NFL players gear up for training camp, fans are starting prep work for the annual fantasy football draft. And though the major online sports sites - ESPN, Yahoo, Fox Sports - remain go-to destinations to sign up for leagues and get the latest news, a growing group of smaller sites is collectively gaining traction.
New York-based Fantasy Sports Ventures has assembled a network of more than 400 sports-related sites, most of them independently run, that together attract millions of unique users a month.
Largely through affiliate relationships, the company has helped direct revenue to ultraspecific mom-and-pop sites that otherwise might never survive in the competitive sports landscape.
FSV was founded in 2006 by Christopher Russo, a former head of new media for the NFL. In helping to build the league's digital presence (and bring the league on board to the fantasy craze), Russo noticed a host of independent sites that offered great content but had no real way to make money.
I thought there was an opportunity to create an independent marketing and media company focused on fantasy sports, Russo said. Part of the way I could make that proposition interesting for advertisers was to aggregate all of the fantasy niche sites that had really great content but weren't monetizing themselves all that well.
In other words, FSV does most of the marketing dirty work, setting up cross-promotions and selling advertising.
The Fantasy Players Network, as it is called, includes some well-known names - The Huddle, KFFL and Hoopsworld.com, for example.
FSV owns about 20 sites and holds affiliate agreements with hundreds of others ranging from the popular sports blog The Big Lead to stats-oriented sites such as Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs. Most recently, FSV purchased popular fantasy baseball site BaseballHQ. …