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Fantasy sports are now a $1.4 billion industry in the US

(ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)

A generation ago, fantasy sports were a nerdy fringe hobby. Today, they're a $1.4 billion industry in the US.

That's according to a new (paywalled) report from the research company IBIS World. That $1.4 billion in revenue translates to $521.5 million in profit for a handful of companies, led by Yahoo (with 18 percent of the market), ESPN (12.9 percent), and CBS (7.3 percent).

Here's the split by sport:

fantasy chart

(IBIS World)

Although most fantasy leagues are free to participate in, these companies make money off all the ads they serve on their sites and mobile apps. It might seem like a ton, but it makes sense, given how much time people spend on them — lots of fantasy football players repeatedly check their scores all day every Sunday, and players of other fantasy sports with daily games have to check their lineups every day during the season.

As a result of increasing numbers of these players, the industry has grown by about 11.9 percent annually for the past five years. But it's still relatively small, compared to many other leisure activities: for comparison, both the skiing and bowling industries take in about $3 billion annually in the US.

Further readingFantasy football: a beginner's guide