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Business Observer Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009 12 years ago

Fantasy man

Telecommunications executive Joe DiMaiohas turned into an entrepreneur and now gives information to fantasy sports league players.

Fantasy man

Telecommunications executive Joe DiMaio

has turned into an entrepreneur and now gives information to fantasy sports league players.

For 25 years, Joe DiMaio made a living in Florida as a telecommunications executive. Today, DiMaio is involved in a different kind of competition.

In April, DiMaio, 60, founded Fantasy Players Edge ( a Tampa-based Web site and service that provides statistics, advice and information for fantasy baseball and football players worldwide.

Fantasy sports allow people to pick athletes from different teams, assembling their own team in leagues on the Internet. Players score points when their athletes excel.

Some fantasy leagues, such as, are purely for fun. Others charge a fee and play for cash prizes. Teams with the most points win.

In the past five years, fantasy sports have gone out of the nerd-like fringe and into the mainstream. It is one of the fastest-growing hobbies in the country.

Trade groups estimate 40 million people play fantasy football and 20 million play fantasy baseball. Four years ago, about 22 million and 12 million played in those leagues.

DiMaio attributes the increase to the growth of social networking on the Internet. "It's a wonderful way to connect," he says.

The idea behind Fantasy Players Edge is to offer a way for fantasy players to save time. People who play fantasy football spend about 2 1/2 hours a day searching for information on five to 11 Web sites. Fantasy Players Edge can cut that to 20 minutes.

DiMaio makes money from sponsors, which like the growing number of hits his site is collecting. He would not reveal revenues. DiMaio holds his costs down by doing his own research and site updating. He spends six to eight hours a day, 365 days a year, doing research and updating the site.

Pro football is nearing its championship, so DiMaio's focus has shifted to baseball because fantasy teams are preparing for their drafts and the beginning of spring training.

DiMaio's site,, has become more baseball oriented. Fantasy baseball tracks a larger variety of player performance statistics, from pitching to runs to hitting.

After leaving Primus Communications in December 2007, DiMaio spent three months writing a business plan and organizing Fantasy Players Edge. He had been playing fantasy sports for about 15 years, so he knew what players needed. But he needed to learn who the customers were.

"I needed to understand the demographics and make it work for me," DiMaio says.

Most companies fail because they are undercapitalized and worry about making money instead of focusing on customers, DiMaio says. Fantasy sports is more recession proof than other industries because people want a pleasant escape, DiMaio says.

Looking ahead, DiMaio wants to expand his site to include other sports, such as college football. But he is concerned about getting enough information. Unlike pro teams, college teams do not need to disclose as much information, such as injuries.

The expansion of the site should mean additional revenue and a staff of about six researchers by the end of the year. The site has about 20,000 page hits a year, or about 1% of the fantasy players market.

The value of the site comes from the viewers: A mainly male audience, aged 18 to 49.

DiMaio says he learned to appreciate life and sports more after he returned from serving in the Vietnam War while in the U.S. Navy. He remembers listening to the Super Bowl on Armed Services Radio.

"With so much dying, it gave new meaning to really living," DiMaio says.

- Dave Szymanski

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