In a phone interview with Manish Jha, General Manager of Mobile at the National Football League, we learned about a whole bunch of new bells and whistles, maybe things you won’t necessarily notice, like improved back-end design and more up-to-date score information. What hasn’t changed for the 2013 season is the $5 monthly fee Verizon will charge its smartphone customers to view live NFL games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights, along with NFL network coverage and (perhaps most important) live RedZone coverage on Sunday.
(Don’t dismiss the RedZone coverage. If you live in California, like we do, you can sometimes get a full extra live game or two on Sundays because they are the only ones still going on.)
If your phone is from AT&T, or Sprint, or T-Mobile, you won’t be able to watch live action but you also won’t have to fight to find an NFL app that works well to bring you things like video highlights, replays, scores, and fantasy stats. Jha said the NFL and Verizon teamed up to produce one app to rule them all, the new NFL Mobile app which you should be able to find in the operating system app store of your choice. Also built into the new version of the app are some of the features from last year’s experimental Thursday Night Xtra app, which we never felt was fully baked; hopefully some of its interesting social media ideas are better fleshed out this time around.
“We want to make this the definitive NFL experience for a smartphone,” said Jha. And well should the NFL pay a lot of attention to mobile access: According to Jha, during last season mobile traffic to all NFL Internet sites surpassed desktop Internet traffic, even as that latter figure also increased.
Read that again: Mobile traffic to NFL sites eclipsed desktop traffic last year, even as desktop traffic grew. So now you have an idea why Verizon paid $1 billion to keep the rights for 4 more years as the NFL’s exclusive mobile carrier.
The only thing we still argue about is the league and Verizon’s decision to keep live cellular action off tablets; the Verzion NFL Mobile live access only works for devices they consider “phones,” though Jha even admits that such a definition may be a short-time thing, given the trend of phones getting big phat screens.
“We’re staying on top of trends, watching what comes out of Silicon Valley,” Jha said. “Right now we’re being pragmatic, trying to strike the right balance between serving fans and creating value for our sponsor.”