Throughout the inaugural season, the UFL found several creative ways to distinguish itself from previous spring football leagues and the NFL. One major difference was how the UFL embraced prop betting in all forms. The league went all in, promoting DFS fantasy play with sportscasters predicting the over /under before every game and speculating which receiver or running back would score the highest number of passing or receiving yards.

But the UFL’s inclusion of prop betting wasn’t limited to pre-game chatter and predictions. The over/ under odds for each game were featured prominently onscreen alongside the scores and updated throughout the game by the broadcast commentators. The emphasis on prop betting was one way for the UFL to offset the disappointing lack of traditional fantasy league platforms offered to fans.

A Missed Opportunity

ESPN’s NFL fantasy platform is one of the best. The fact that they chose not to offer it to UFL fans was a missed opportunity. Fantasy Sports players are among the most passionate and loyal fans, and roughly 80% of all Fantasy sports players engage in Fantasy Football.

There’s no better way to build fan engagement than playing in a fantasy league. In February of 2022, Forbes noted the expansion of legal sports gambling directly correlated with increased TV viewership. In 2023, those numbers continued to expand. ESPN reported a record number of 12 million fans playing Fantasy Football on their platform. This figure reflected a 10% increase from the previous year, leaving no doubt that Fantasy Football and an increase in TV viewership go hand-in-hand. 

Building Fan Engagement

Recognizing that UFL fans lacked one of the elements that made the NFL fan experience so engaging, FOX Sports filled the gap with a weekly online game. Fans received an email reminder posing six prop bet questions with cash prizes awarded to the winners. The questions ranged from correctly predicting the game-winner plus the over/under or which quarterback, Adrian Martinez or Luis Perez, would pass for the most yards that week.

Other sports gambling sites such as BetOnline and Bovada offered their versions of UFL prop bets. But these sites aren’t an option for those who prefer not to spend large sums of cash. In yet another innovative twist, the UFL announced a partnership with Underdog Fantasy.

When he announced the arrangement before the divisional playoff round in early June, UFL President and CEO Russ Brandon stated, “We are thrilled to name Underdog Fantasy as our exclusive sports fantasy partner.”

The move signaled the league would incorporate prop betting into the game itself, with Underdog including live odds for the unique UFL three-option PAT plays.

DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) has become increasingly popular due to the ease of placing a quick bet and the short-term commitment. Prop bets attract people who may not be familiar with the teams or the players by offering an opportunity to participate socially and enjoy the game.

The Case For Fantasy League Action

Although adding interactive live betting during the game is interesting, it doesn’t replace the thrill of head-to-head competition in a season-long fantasy league. There is nothing quite like playing in a fantasy football league, drafting a team, and managing your players throughout the season to cover for injuries or bye weeks while focusing on making the playoffs. The competition is fierce, the bragging rights are up for grabs, and the trash talk is ongoing. Prop bets may be more inclusive and offer on-the-spot fun, but they don’t match the sheer enjoyment and intensity of a fantasy team championship victory.

UFL EVP Darryl Johnston has indicated that during the offseason, the league will focus on growing the fan base. One way to guarantee a successful outcome is to offer a fantasy league platform in addition to the prop bets.

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author avatar
Sue Levine
Sue Levine spent the past five years creating and producing a successful weekly health and wellness podcast starring a wonderful iconic woman as the program host. As part of Sue's responsibilities, she scripted every episode and discovered a genuine love of writing. When the podcast ended late last year, she shifted the focus of her writing to covering pro sports. A passionate fan of NFL and UFL football as well as fantasy, she is delighted to be able to share her articles with other football fans.

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