A new NFL season is kicking off, and it's not just about rooting for your favorite team. For an estimated 41 million fantasy football players in the U.S. and Canada, the next few months will be spent trading players, drafting free agents and wondering if it will be Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte or Adrian Peterson who'll lead the league in rushing yards.
The Fantasy Sports Trade Association predicts that nearly $1.7 billion will be spent on league fees for fantasy sports this year. From office productivity slipping to the dilemma of having to root for players suiting up with your local team's archrivals when your own fantasy match is on the line, fantasy football creates some unusual experiences. Whether participants are playing for bragging rights or a cash prize, they devote a lot of time building teams of skilled position players and scoring points based on how they perform.
You can profit from fantasy football, even if you wound up drafting Josh Gordon and Wes Welker as your wide receivers. There are plenty of publicly traded companies with some serious skin in seeing this national obsession continue to expand. Let's check them out.
1. Go for the Dot-Com Score
The three largest fantasy football websites are all publicly traded. Yahoo (YHOO), CBS' (CBS) CBSSports.com and Disney's (DIS) ESPN.com combine to attract 38 percent of this year's participants, according to industry watcher IBIS World.
All three sites offer both free and premium leagues, but the fun doesn't end there. Many players also seek out fantasy football news across third-party sites, hoping to gain an edge on sleeper picks and waiver-wire ideas that their more passive competitors aren't checking out. The result is the average player spending 8.7 hours a week consuming news, adjusting rosters and fielding trade requests. The entire Internet wins because that's a lot of online advertising being consumed as 41 million players surf for morsels of gridiron information.
2. TV for the TD
Fantasy football would be nothing without real football, and that's where broadcasters come in. We've already covered CBS and ESPN parent Disney. However, the real TV star for fantasy football buffs is DirecTV (DTV). It's the only satellite or cable television provider offering access to every NFL regular-season game in its entirety. DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket has been a real difference maker for the satellite television leader, likely explaining why it hasn't suffered the same kind of "cord cutter" defections that traditional cable providers have experienced in recent years.
Other premium providers are offering access to the NFL's RedZone Network, which is a single channel that covers scoring opportunities during the day, but DIirecTV is the platform of choice for channel-surfing fantasy football buffs.
3. The Crowd Goes Wild
We can't say that fantasy football players put their lives on hold during fantasy football season, though wives -- 80 percent of players are male -- and co-workers may see it that way. They still go out and have fun. However, Sunday outings are often limited to sports bars. Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) operates the country's largest chain of family-friendly sports bars, with more than 1,030 locations across the country. Most of the year it's best known for its wide variety of signature chicken wings, but during the NFL season, it's a place where folks can watch several games at the same time across the various mounted screens.
Buffalo Wild Wings knows that fantasy football is a big draw, and last month it offered to host draft parties for leagues of eight or more players, complete with complimentary draft boards, stickers and coupons for future visits. On Tuesday it unveiled GameBreak, a multiplatform gaming experience whereby customers can play fantasy-style games for weekly prizes.
Tough luck on drafting Gonzalez or getting stuck with Matt Schaub as your starting quarterback. Your fantasy football season may be all but over, but you can still make it back on top by investing in the companies cashing in on the booming trend.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney, and he's the defending champion of one of his two fantasy football leagues. He's also a Miami Dolphins fan, so he needs all the fantasy he can get. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings, Walt Disney and Yahoo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.
8 Reasons You'll Overpay on Your Next Car
3 Ways to Cash In on Fantasy Football Without a Winning Team
When you get into that back office and start signing all the paperwork, the topic of extended warranties will come up pretty quickly. Ellie Kay, an author of 15 finance-related books, notes that such warranties are negotiable.
"Before you sign on the dotted line, check out other sources of extended warranty pricing," she says, such as those provided by your bank or insurance company. "Then either use this lower price in the financial and insurance office for negotiation to get them to match the price, or buy it from the other source."
A scenario from Kay during her last car purchase: "The dealer quoted me $4,200 for a three-year extended warranty for my 280SLK Roadster Mercedes that included a $250 deductible. USAA -- my insurance company -- gave me a three-year warranty for $3,200 with zero deductible. I've used the new warranty once already. The bill was $1,100 and I paid nothing because of the zero deductible."
Bottom line: The default extended warranty is almost always the worst deal.
You may have a monthly payment figure in your head when shopping for a new car, but your interests are better served when you focus on the out-the-door price instead.
"A sales rep can often trick you by offering a lower monthly payment, but [one that] will stretch out the terms of the loan," says David Bakke, a car buying expert at MoneyCrashers.com.
You can reduce the overall cost of the car via negotiation and by skipping accessories and add-ons. "Things like navigation systems, rims, floor mats or car audio/entertainment systems can be purchased from a third party vendor, usually for less."
All our experts agree: Don't even mention your preferred or maximum monthly payment price.
If you decide to trade in your current vehicle for another, Kay says to negotiate this apart from the price of the new car and only after you've negotiated everything else. You can learn the full value of your car by going to Edmunds.com or kbb.com. Once you know what the car is worth, don't settle for anything less. Kay also advises you to seriously consider selling your old car yourself, and applying what you get toward the principle of your loan.
It may be tempting to just head to one local dealership, take a test drive or two, and walk out the door with a new car, but you'll save yourself a lot more money by doing a little pre-shopping research.
"Once you have your choices narrowed down to a few makes or models, contact the Internet sales manager of a few dealerships," suggests Bakke. "These folks can often offer better pricing than what you'd find dealing with an on-site sales person. Plus, you save time."
In addition to, or in lieu of, e-shopping, Joshua Duvall of Capital Financial Services says to "find a few vehicles from different manufacturers and pit them against one another." He explains that the car buying market is based on quantity and the fact that dealers want to move cars. "Force them to compete for your business."
"Dealerships often employ hard-sell tactics that can be overwhelming for a first-time buyer, so it is a good idea to go with someone who has been through the process before," explains John Ganotis, founder of CreditCardInsider.com.
Granotis also says that if you're buying a used vehicle, it's wise bring along a friend who knows his or her stuff when it comes to car health. For example, a mechanic who can peek under the hood, or recognize if something subtle is wrong during the test drive, would be especially handy.
You've likely heard it before, but we have to repeat this fact: Buying a used car is almost always a better value compared to buying new. If you like a particular model, buy the same car, but a year or several years older. Unless there have been major body changes, you'll hardly be able to tell the difference.
OK, so sometimes ol' Sally breaks down, and you need to get a new set of wheels, stat. If you don't fall into that category, though, our experts recommend choosing your purchase date strategically, such as during a major sale. Better yet, wait for theend of a promotion.
Dealership salespeople often receive a bonus if they meet their targets during a promotion. Even if they lose money on a vehicle at the end of a promotion, they typically make up for the loss with their promotion target bonus.
Erin Konrad of CouponPal suggests buying near the end of the month. This is when salespeople are trying to meet monthly quotas and are more likely to negotiate.
Be familiar with common strategies employed by dealerships and sellers. For example, MSN Money warns against the "four-square" trick. (I've had this one used on me.) In this trick, the salesperson draws four boxes with a number in each: your old car's trade-in value, the new car's price, the down payment, and your monthly payment. "From there, the salesperson begins crunching numbers -- most likely making it too hard for you to follow," writes MSN. He or she will shift your focus to the monthly payment, which can result in a longer loan and a higher interest rate.
Another common trick is to heighten your sense of urgency, says Business Insider via Gregg Fidan, founder of RealCarTips.com and the author of "Honest Guide to Buying a Car." For example, the dealer may tell you "that color is not available; there's only three left statewide; the price is good only for today; someone else is interested in the car, better decide quickly, etc." In this case, be patient and courteous, but remain level-headed and never rush to buy. Study up on Fidan's list of 112 car-buying scams.
To sum up the list: Don't let yourself get too caught up in the excitement of shiny metal, and remember that in six months that "new car excitement" will have faded, and you'll be due for an oil change.