What Business Owners Can Learn From ESPN's Fantasy Fumble

I’m a bit of a Fantasy Football nerd. No, I’m not going to sit here and give you the over/under for a sleeper TE that would be a good option for your Week 3 matchup because he’s facing a 10th ranked defense. I’m not that into it. BUT, I do play in two separate leagues, which means I’m glued to my iPhone screen all Sunday long watching the points roll in (or not).

This past Sunday was opening weekend for the 2016 football season. In the Fantasy world, that’s a pretty big deal. So you can imagine my shock and frustration when I opened my app to check my scores and saw the ESPN FANTASY APP DID NOT WORK. It has one job, which is literally in the app title.

Both the app and the website were down for hours, which, as you can guess, did not sit well with the internet.


Now, what happened with ESPN is an extreme illustration of making sure your website is ready for traffic – there are millions of users signed up for their Fantasy Football service, and Sunday was arguably one of the busiest days of the season.

But, there are some important lessons to be learned from ESPN’s snafu that can be helpful to any business launching an app or website:

A soft launch is almost always recommended for a new website. Soft launch is tech-like speak for practice, practice, practice. Take your website live. Let people discover it. Have your employees, friends and family test it. Try to break every aspect of it, and then fix what’s broken. This is your dress rehearsal. Once you’ve had a chance to tweak, perfect and improve every aspect of it, send out your press releases and make your big announcements.

It can be a heartbreaking experience to put time, money and resources into a website only to discover a link isn’t working properly after you’ve sent out that newsletter letting all of your customers know about the fun new feature you’ve added.

Make sure your site can handle the traffic. Hosting companies often offer varying packages depending on the amount of traffic you expect your website to receive. More traffic to your site means more work for their servers, so make sure your hosting package can handle an influx of traffic if you announce a new website launch. This is important to keep in mind if you’re offering a killer sale or promotion as well. Don’t send out thousands of invites to your party if the capacity is only 50. Know what I mean?

Manage expectations. Yours and your clients’. If you’re going to talk a big game about your new app or website, they’d better perform.

ESPN’s #fail might not have been so bad had they not put so much effort into convincing all of us fantasy football lovers that their fantasy program was the best. In fact, just last month, ESPN held a televised fantasy football marathon, boasting that almost 2 million teams had been drafted within a two day period.

From their own press release:

The new ESPN Fantasy app updates the No. 1 ESPN Fantasy Football app on iPhone, iPad, Android phone, and Android 7-inch tablets and allows users to play Fantasy Football, Baseball, Basketball, and Hockey in the same application for the first time ever. Major enhancements this year include a brand new design and visuals that feature new game logos, player headshots, sticker packs, and animations; award-winning fantasy analysis and video accessible right from the app’s home screen; improved draft and live scoring features; and personalized notifications tailored to users’ rosters.”

Ouch. Would people have been upset about the ESPN Fantasy system going down had there not been so much hype leading up to this last Sunday? Who knows. What we do know is that their marketing efforts added fuel to the online fire of fury.

Biggest lesson of all…if your website goes down or your app glitches, apologize, fix it and learn what you can from the incident. Technology is a crazy thing – stuff happens, but the game must go on.

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