The announcement of an expansion of the streaming media partnership between the NFL and Verizon means that live NFL game broadcasts could look very different in the future.
It’s 2030 and a small group of friends is gathered around a high-definition, three-dimensional projection of the screen of a phone belonging to a member of the group, displayed on a wall. Playing live through the projection is a Verizon NFL streaming game. The feed is not only clear and free of buffering or lag, but the content is unique to the group.
The friends are part of the same fantasy football league, and the feed is automatically flipping between moments of different games based on the settings that were input into the device. The stats and live scoring updates from the group’s Yahoo! league are overlaid on the live game feed. Other data like the latest odds updates on the afternoon and Sunday night games are scrolling across the bottom of the screen.
Elsewhere, a more casual fan who is only interested in watching scoring plays is being fed exactly what he/she wants by the same technology. Later that evening, fans who work during the day on Sundays are catching up on custom-curated highlights from the day’s action, with comments and reactions from their social media networks part of the highlight package.
All this may seem like a dream right now, but because of a new expansion of the corporate partnership between the NFL and Verizon announced on Monday, it all gravitates toward the realm of possibility.
According to the press release from both parties, starting in January 2018 all users of mobile devices will able to stream live NFL games via the Yahoo! Sports app. The content is available regardless of which service carrier fans use – fans don’t have to be Verizon customers – and the service will carry both in-market and national preseason, regular season and playoff games in addition to the Super Bowl.
In addition to games, the content available will include new video productions jointly produced by the NFL and Verizon throughout the week between game days. Bringing live NFL content on this scale with such wide access creates huge potential for not only integrating information of all kinds into the broadcast but customization of the content as well.
Marketing research has shown strongly for years now that younger audiences – the ones that the NFL needs to survive for decades – demand personalized content. The NFL already has ways to make this happen. Through the league’s partnership with DraftKings and Yahoo!, the integration of a fan’s fantasy teams on those platforms could easily be integrated. This is already available to fans who watch NFL games via Directv’s Sunday Ticket service, but with emerging technology on mobile devices, it could be elevated to a “set it and forget it” experience that would deliver viewers everything they want and nothing that they don’t care about.
Mobile technology could also make setting up those customizations extremely convenient. Akin to the technology used by the Golden State Warriors in the form of a Facebook chatbot, specifying exactly which moments from NFL games a fan wants to see could be as easy as having a conversation with artificial intelligence integrated into the app.
The potential for customization could go beyond personalized highlights and fantasy data, however. There is also massive potential for when gambling on NFL games becomes legal across the United States.
With the possible repeal of PASPA (the federal legislation which currently makes wagering money on the outcome of sporting events illegal in 46 states) or a United States Supreme Court decision that the law is unconstitutional looming, legalized sports betting seems to be a matter of when rather than if.
When that does come, it’s likely that U.S. citizens will do the majority of that gambling in the same place that they do everything else; on their phones. The systems could be built to be integrated into the NFL broadcasts, with updated odds and other relevant information being streamed right along with the action on the field.
Other ways in which this content could be revolutionized is with augmented reality and social media. Comments from viewers’ social media networks could also be overlaid into the personalized broadcasts. Companies who are pioneering augmented/virtual reality in sports, like Vntana and LiveLike, could bring a third dimension to the game’s broadcasts which would not only enhance the broadcast itself but the social component as well.
The NFL broadcasts of the future will be full of content that complements the on-field action and highly-personalized. The announcement of the expansion between the league and Verizon is a step toward turning these possibilities into realities.