Fantasy sports have been around since the 1960s, but their popularity has exploded with the Internet and mobile technology. Today, some 41 million people participate. And overseeing the experience for a majority of them is Clifton Ma.
Ma is the business lead for fantasy sports at Yahoo, the world’s top provider of fantasy sports games and apps.
He directs everything from strategy and deal making to user retention and revenue. He also coordinates with other departments across Yahoo, a juggernaut in sports media. “People like to joke that all I do is play fantasy sports for a living,” says Ma. “While my job does involve actually testing and playing our games, most of my time is spent talking to sales, engineering, and partners.”
The ability to jump back and forth between the details of running a fantasy site and the big-picture concerns of strategic planning was something Ma picked up while earning his bachelor’s at Haas and his MBA at UCLA. He honed those skills as a consultant at Arthur Andersen and, later, at Disney Interactive. He’s worked for Yahoo for seven years.
The unrelenting nature of the business keeps Ma’s work challenging. “Fantasy players absolutely need to know what’s going on in their games at every single moment,” he says. Ma himself has been active in fantasy leagues for many years and understands his customers well.
But for all their popularity, fantasy sports are not particularly diverse or global—at least, not yet. Most players are white males in the U.S., and Ma is working to spread the hobby to minorities and women worldwide. He’s made headway but says he still has a ways to go and looks forward to the challenge. —DM
Sr. Director, Fantasy Sports, Yahoo!
Santa Monica, CA