The National Football League has concluded that when it comes to chucking content onto the digital playing field, simpler is better.
Last year, the league launched NFL Now — touted as a personalized online video network for gridiron fans — as a new service with highlights, features and other content, separate from NFL.com and its NFL Mobile apps. In addition, the $1.99-per-month NFL Now Plus premium package offered even more, including instant in-game highlights and access to a trove of archive material.
But for the 2015-16 season, which kicks off this week, NFL Now will no longer be a separate service. Instead, that video programming will feed into the league’s redesigned NFL Mobile app and other digital properties. NFL Now Plus will be discontinued; access to that content has been merged into Game Pass, a single digital-subscription plan for U.S. fans now priced at $100 per year with access to audio-only live gamecasts and on-demand HD replays of all 256 regular-season games.
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“It’s a simplification for our fans,” said David Jurenka, the NFL’s VP of digital media operations. “We looked across every single app in our portfolio and found we were due for simplification.” He insisted that the change was made not because NFL Now had failed to attract users, but to consolidate content for easier access.
To that end, the new NFL Mobile app has been rejiggered to streamline navigation and now includes different “gameday” and “non-gameday” views. On gamedays, the app will present a matchup/scoreboard page with real-time scores, in-progress highlights or live video from NFL games. On days when games aren’t being played, NFL Mobile will feature news and video about teams and players.
In another shift, this year Verizon Wireless, which has exclusive live-streaming rights to NFL games on mobile phones, is eliminating the additional $5 monthly charge for all customers. The carrier is aiming to drive up wireless data usage by encouraging video viewing on the go.
NFL Now, in addition to its inclusion on the mobile app, will be on the NFL’s connected-TV apps including for Microsoft Xbox One and Apple TV as well as on the web at nfl.com/now. Sponsors for NFL Now for the upcoming season include Coors Light, Geico, KFC, Lexus and National Car Rental.
The NFL Now lineup will again comprise content from NFL Media and the 32 teams, including a live show produced from the NFL Media studios in L.A. and “GameDay Blitz” on Sundays. Other live programming includes “The Rich Eisen Show” and “Fantasy Live,” as well as press conferences and special events including Combine Live or Draft Live.
Meanwhile, this year the NFL in the U.S. is launching the $100 Game Pass, which merges its four separate premium-priced digital products — Game Rewind, Audio Pass, Preseason Live and NFL Now Plus — into a single service. (Internationally, Game Pass provides subscription-based access to live games.) For American fans, Game Pass includes full replays of games from 2009 to the current season, including the 2015 NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl 50, plus shows and video from NFL Films’ library.
The NFL’s Fantasy Football app will remain separate. That provides video highlights, free live scoring, player news, fantasy points projections and notifications, along with live drafts and full roster management.
In another digital development new this year, the NFL will use Zebra Technologies’ real-time location system in all 32 stadiums to track players and officials during games. That will collect data from radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags inside players’ shoulder pads to capture precise position, speed and distance stats like acceleration and total distance run. The league will incorporate that data across NFL.com, NFL Mobile and the Fantasy Football app.