August 30, 2014

NFL Mobile users watched 10.3 million video streams during Super Bowl week

Remember the Football on your phone video from last August? Pretty funny, right? Imagine, people wanting to watch football on their phones, no matter where they go. Well last week a whole bunch of them did just that. According to the NFL, more than 10 million video streams were watched on the Verizon NFL Mobile platform during Super Bowl week, a jump of more than 400 percent from the year before.

Football on your phone? You bet!

For some reason we can’t get the league’s media arm or Verizon Wireless to provide the one stat we really want — how many people watched live Super Bowl action on a smartphone? Verizon at least is consistent — they have never provided any kind of statistic on NFL Mobile usage. Today the NFL Media folks issued a press release with all kinds of “record” numbers (we will post the whole thing below if you want to dig through it), but no discrete number for the game itself. We’ll get to the reason for that in a bit. But for the overall stats, we can sum up the numbers quickly: If there was football programming available last week, a lot of people watched it. And if it was available online or to mobile devices, so much the better.

What really drove traffic across all NFL Media properties this year was the NFL Mobile package. Remember, this year the “NFL Mobile from Verizon” app was actually available for smartphones from any carrier; the catch was, you could only get live game action if you were a Verizon subscriber and paid $5 more a month. Everyone else, including Verizon customers, could see highlights and NFL Network video content, like features and reports from Super Bowl week. The opening up of the app is probably the biggest reason why unique users of NFL Mobile properties during Super Bowl week increased 88 percent this year versus last, 11.2 million users compared to 6.0 million, according to NFL statistics.

Here’s where the stats get interesting: While it’s impressive that video streams across all NFL Media properties during Super Bowl week increased 56 percent this year compared to last, 34.0 million to 21.8 million, what’s really mind-boggling is that 10.3 million of those streams this year were consumed via the NFL Mobile app, a 416 percent increase over last year.

To repeat: Almost ONE-THIRD OF ALL NFL MEDIA VIDEO STREAMS were watched last week… on a phone.

One possible reason why neither the league nor Verizon wants to release actual game-day live action viewing numbers for NFL Mobile is that they may not be that impressive. Remember, only Verizon customers who ponied up the $5 extra “premium” fee could have watched the Fox simulcast on their phones, so it’s a smaller subset to begin with. And really, for the big game itself, most likely you were on a couch watching a big screen. (We here at MSR HQ did find the NFL Mobile live feed effective for when we had to roam into the kitchen for more snacks, or for other “breaks” necessary during the game. But we didn’t watch more than a few minutes of the game on the phone.) Plus, the Fox stream was available to tablets using its app or for PCs or laptops watching online, so that probably took away some potential phone-watchers of live game action.

During non-game times, however, smartphones appear to be leading the mobile video explosion. Even though tablets seem to make more sense for watching sports while mobile, it’s pretty clear that people are watching a lot of NFL video on the thing that never leaves their pocket or purse — their phone. Are other sports taking note? And now do you know why the NFL is pushing toward NFL Now? Stay tuned. And keep your phone and checkbook handy.

(full press release content below)

COVERAGE OF SUPER BOWL XLVIII SETS VIEWERSHIP & TRAFFIC RECORDS ACROSS NFL MEDIA

Wall-to-wall coverage of Super Bowl XLVIII produces double-digit spikes for NFL Network, NFL.com, and NFL Mobile

NFL Media’s 11th year covering the Super Bowl produced record-breaking results across all platforms.

NFL NETWORK

Providing expert analysis, the latest news and reports, special guest appearances, and matchup-related programming leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII, NFL Network served up 140 total hours – including a record 86 live hours – of programming from 12 sets in eight locations across New York City and New Jersey, utilizing a roster of 40 on-air personalities with a combined 17 Super Bowl rings.

For Super Bowl week*, NFL Network averaged 175,000 viewers in Total Day and 226,000 viewers in Primetime – up +20% and +31%, respectively, compared to last year making this the most-watched Super Bowl week ever on NFL Network.

With more than 41 hours of Super Bowl coverage, SUPER BOWL LIVE averaged 141,000 viewers and up +60% over last year’s average audience (88,000 viewers).

On Super Bowl Sunday, NFL GAMEDAY MORNING averaged 657,000 viewers – up +10% over last year’s telecast (596,000 viewers), making this the most-watched NFL GAMEDAY MORNING ever.

NFL Network’s postgame audience peaked from 10:30PM-11:00PM with an average of 1.14 million viewers, up + 25% over last year’s highest postgame peak (906,000 viewers)

NFL Network averaged 313,000 viewers in Primetime on Super Bowl Sunday – up +52% compared to last year’s performance.

For the entire 2013 postseason, NFL Network averaged 148,000 viewers in Total Day – up +13% compared to last year’s performance (131,000 viewers) making this the most-watched postseason ever on NFL Network.

NFL DIGITAL MEDIA

Across all internet-connected devices, including PC’s, tablets, and smartphones, the official digital properties of the National Football League delivered original video programming, the latest news and information, as well as unprecedented access to players, celebrities and musicians. NFL Digital Media’s offerings included NFL Mobile from Verizon which provided fans access to live, streaming video of Super Bowl XLVIII and NFL Network, including exclusive Super Bowl content and commercials.

For Super Bowl week, visits to NFL Digital Media properties increased 24% versus last year, bolstered by a 149% increase in visits to NFL Mobile.

Unique users of NFL Digital Media properties rose 22% during the week versus last year (27.8M vs. 22.8M), driven by 88% growth in NFL Mobile Properties (11.2M vs. 6.0M).

Unique users and visits to NFL Digital Media properties were driven by an array of content around Super Bowl XLVII. The two highest performing long-form NFL Digital Media features were:

Ø Judy Battista’s piece on Super Bowl XLVIII’s impact on Peyton Manning’s legacy

Ø Mike Silver’s story on the Seahawks dominant defense being fueled by the tight bond amongst the ‘Legion of Boom’

Video Streams during Super Bowl week across all NFL Digital Media properties increased 56% versus last year (34.0M vs. 21.8M).

Video consumption to NFL Mobile from Verizon reached 10.3M streams for a 416% increase over last year’s Super Bowl Week.

The highest performing video of the week featured NFL Network analysts making predictions for Super Bowl XLVIII. The video was viewed more than 800k times.

Seen in 195 countries, NFL Game Pass consumption grew 49% year-over-year across all devices and 57% on desktop.

*Super Bowl Week is defined as January 27-February 2, 2014

– end press release —

And yes, we know the Football On Your Phone video was a promo for DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket, which is neither here nor there when it comes to Verizon NFL Mobile numbers. But the video is funny enough to watch again:

Analytics and big data of prime interest to stadium networks

Editor’s note: Please welcome guest poster R. Scott Raynovich, editor of the Rayno Report, which has just launched a free in-depth report on networking, analytics and big data. Read on for Rayno’s take on the value of intelligent analytics, and take advantage of his new free report. — PK

By R. Scott Raynovich, Rayno Report

You can’t throw a stone on the Internet without hitting some big data. But what’s interesting about big data, and its cousin, analytics, is that the technology has hundreds of applications in hundreds of markets, from digital marketing to security. And there’s a huge, untapped market that is unfolding in networking, including in-stadium and on-campus networks.

People are talking about Software-Defined Networking (SDN), and of course, everybody’s favorite, Network Function Virtualization. The discussion around many of these technologies is about commoditization and reduced cost of hardware. But that’s actually not where the value is created: The value is going to be created in opening up of the system and allowing for a lot more exchange of data and information and intelligent analytics.

Extreme Networks has made a smart move, I believe, by focusing on this with its recent partnership with the NFL. Extreme talks about the business use cases for analytics, such as analyzing what your customers are doing, monitoring performance, and overall, providing a better product. If you look at the logic of it, it’s this that networking vendors have as much data and information as anybody, because it passes through their pipes.

Analytics and the data center: a natural marriage

I recently completed an early study in this, which is included in a new report: Analytics and the Software-Defined Data Center. My research indicates that a new crop of technology is emerging that could tie together storage, computing, and networking, by providing cutting-edge measurement and analysis that allows managers to gain more insight into what’s going on in data centers and networks, and eventually automate their management.

See Extreme’s fancy graphic below on the Super Bowl. This just scratches the surface. What it shows, if anything, is how much information and analysis can be extracted from just about any network application. Imagine the data flowing through a ecommerce data center, or a digital media service. Businesses now have instant access to everything everybody is doing. Or how do some of the largest Websites in the world monitoring their networks for security breaches?

The answer is mostly in measurement and analytics technologies.

What’s interesting is that we’ve just started using this concept to make our networks and data-centers systems and more self-reliant. There is a long way to go, and you will start hearing more about this in the coming months.

Top 10 Benefits of Purview Application Awareness at Super Bowl XLVIII

(Source: Extreme Networks)

Friday Grab Bag: Super Bowl prop bets, anyone?

Sure you have purchased a square or two in the office pool and made a friendly wager on the outcome of the game, but that is scratching the surface. Did you know you can bet on how long the National Anthem will be or if the singer will wear gloves? Will the game go overtime?

A look at which are good and bad can be found in a number of places but I liked the ones published in SportsOnEarth and one that was in Football Outsiders as they give some context to what you should and should not do.

Is the Super Bowl a boon on the local economy?
Every year we see a number of time-honored myths rolled out about the Super Bowl. Top day for avocado consumption. No. Top day for spousal abuse. No. That it is a financial boon to the host city/area. Maybe no as well.

A piece in the New York Times points out that since past predictions of prosperity by the NFL were destroyed once the methodology was public the same might be true now. The current estimate, between $550 million and $600 was determined in secret, they will not say who did it or how they arrived at that number. However advertisers are flooding the host city so that they can be seen prior to the event so maybe they know something they are just not telling us.

Winter Olympics broadcast schedule
In case you actually can watch the games from the comfort of your sofa or a cozy corner pub here is a complete viewers’ guide to the events, when they will be broadcast. It should be noted by figure skating fans that the first events take place prior to the opening ceremony.

For a breakdown on what will be interesting as well as the challenges that the broadcaster NBC could face look over to Sports Illustrated and a piece by Richard Deitsch. Will the network let possible bad news from the surrounding area taint its broadcasts?

Why no respect for American soccer players?
With the World Cup now looming on the sports horizon ESPNFC did a piece on why it seems that European based leagues do not value American players and why increasingly that feeling is being reciprocated.

The nice thing about the piece is that it does not jump to a conclusion but points out how different development systems, short earning window and other factors all play in the decisions that players make in where they want to play.

Another black eye for Sochi?
The upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia has received a series of bad news with intolerance, corruption and potential terrorism issues rising to the forefront. Now a recent piece from ABC shows that there could be another piece of bad news on the horizon.

They are saying that one of the key figures in helping Russia win the games over Austria and South Korea was a man named Gafur Rakhimov. The trouble with Rakhimov is that he is considered by U.S. authorities to be one of the top four or five people in the heroin trade and is under indictment in Uzbekistan.

How to watch the Super Bowl online, or on your phone

Just in case your TV goes on the blink this weekend, don’t worry, you can still watch Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks — either via an online stream, or via your smartphone if you are a Verizon customer.

SUPER BOWL XLVIII KICKOFF: 6:30 p.m. ET

TV: FOX

WATCH THE SUPER BOWL LIVE ONLINE HERE

Fox, which is showing the game on regular TV, will also make the broadcast available online via its Fox Sports Go app and website. Usually, you need a pay TV subscription to see the Fox feed, but it will be free to all viewers on Super Bowl Sunday. The same feed will also be available at NFL.com and at SuperBowl.com, just in case you need an alterate website address. If you want to watch on an iPad, you will want the Fox Sports Go app.

Smartphone viewing via Verizon NFL Mobile

Remember, you can’t watch the game on a smartphone via the Fox app. That’s because Verizon Wireless has the rights to live action on smartphones, via its NFL Mobile app. To view the game live, you must A) be a Verizon customer, B) have the NFL Mobile app installed, and C) have paid the $5 per month premium NFL Mobile fee.

HERE IS THE VERIZON NFL MOBILE INFO PAGE

Remember, both the Fox website feed and the NFL Mobile app feed will be significantly behind the live TV broadcast, anywhere from 20 seconds to more than a minute. And, no, you won’t be able to watch the live feed if you are at the game.

Why the NFL is blocking streaming at the Super Bowl: Blame the network, not the fans

In case you are wondering why you won’t be able to watch the Super Bowl live on your phone while you’re at the game, Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica has a good story about why the NFL is blocking streaming video inside MetLife Stadium. To quickly recap, NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle told Brodkin that streaming video takes up too much bandwidth, and that it could hamper overall wireless communications on game day, so the league is proactively blocking live feeds at the game.

While I agree with her assessment of the situation and the solution (blocking live video), I don’t agree with her claim that the “vast majority of our fans want to watch the game on the field, watch the replays on the jumbo board, and participate in the event more than they want to be checking their phone,” and I’m surprised that Brodkin didn’t put up more of a challenge to this claim. Her follow-on claim that the league is doing the “vast majority” a favor by blocking the few video viewers rings hollow and reminds me of the old “data hogs” arguments the carriers used to use against people who were exercising their rights to their unlimited data contracts. My point: don’t blame fans who want to watch live video as being the people ruining the network for everyone else. Put the blame where it deserves to be, namely on the in-stadium networks that can’t yet handle the demands of a large crowd that wants video at the game.

We’ve talked before about why people want to stay connected while at the game. It’s not for everyone, but the desire to be online in your stadium seat is way more widespread than just a few people. Trolls will comment and say “watch the damn game and shut up” but plenty of real sports fans want the replays and closeups they are now accustomed to on TV. And not every seat has a good view of the big screens inside the stadium, and many times those things are showing ads, not replays. Then there is the time standing in line for a beer or bathroom. Why shouldn’t you be able to watch the game you are paying big bucks to be at, instead of being penalized because the stadium doesn’t have enough beer vendors or urinals? How about watching a replay while the game is in one of its lengthy TV timeouts? Or catching up on a play that you missed during halftime? Isn’t just having to listen to Bruno Mars punishment enough?

It will be interesting to see what the user statistics are like when the San Francisco 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium opens this year, if its much-touted network delivers as hoped. The cynic in me is also guessing that when the NFL finally gets its digital video strategy figured out — meaning they clear the rights contracts and find a way to start charging fans more to watch more video online — the stadium network problems will suddenly be solved, and you’ll be able to watch all the live video you can afford.

We’ll be the first to acknowledge that putting networks in stadiums isn’t easy. Our recent Stadium Tech Reports series is designed to profile those in the industry who are trying to bring a quality wireless experience to their fans, so that others may follow. Already, we see places like Barclays Center and Gillette Stadium pushing the envelope when it comes to features like streaming video. In many ways, getting there is a long road that we’re just at the start of. If there is one bit of analysis I can provide after covering this field for the past 3 years, it’s that I don’t think anyone has gotten the stadium-network thing completely figured out just yet — and that any network put in over the past couple years is probably already in need of an upgrade, due to user demands already exceeding capacity. And that’s before most places are even thinking of providing live video feeds.

So sure, go ahead and block live video if it’s going to crash the network. But stop saying it’s something that just a few fans want, because there’s no proof behind that idea. Until the league and carriers like Verizon offer up real data on stadium network usage, there’s no way of telling exactly how many people at a game want to watch video, and whether it’s just for a replay or two or if they want a constant stream going at their seat. I’d be willing to bet more than a pint with McKenna-Doyle that if she polled an average NFL crowd and asked them if they’d like replays at their seats, a “vast majority” would vote for replays on their phones, and not in favor of settling for jumbotrons and PA announcers as she claims. So again, if you need to block the video, fine, but put the blame for the action on the network’s lack of capacity, and not on the fans who are just trying to enhance their own experience.

Stadium Tech Report: Verizon, AT&T DAS upgrades at MetLife Stadium await Super Bowl Sunday

Verizon branded gate at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Verizon Wireless

Verizon branded gate at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Verizon Wireless

Super Bowl foes the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos have only had two weeks to prepare for each other. But Verizon Wireless and AT&T have been preparing for the roman-numeral date at MetLife Stadium for more than a year. Will the Verizon Wi-Fi and DAS, and AT&T’s separate DAS be able to handle the wireless needs of the fans at the NFL’s biggest game? Tune in Sunday to see!

We might be one of the only news outlets who care more about the wireless networking at Super Bowls than the game itself, but for many in the stadium tech industry the biggest single game in America’s most popular sport is always somewhat of a wireless watershed. Perhaps at no other event do attendees spend so much time shooting selfies and posting them as they do from the site of Super Bowl Sunday. Even in the expected cold, it should be no different this week at Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, where game time is scheduled for around 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

But well before that, fans will be testing the Verizon-built Wi-Fi network and both of the big carriers’ DAS deployments inside MetLife. According to reps from both companies that we spoke with last week, the carriers are ready.

Verizon spokesman David Samberg told us via email last week that an upgrade of the Verizon DAS in MetLife this past season means there are now more than 500 DAS antennas inside the facility. See some of the photos provided by Verizon that show the clever hiding spots Verizon engineers have found over the last 18 months as they’ve added capacity to a network built just a few years ago.

AT&T has also put in a brand-new DAS over the past year, with another 500-plus antennas of its own. “For the last year or so we’ve been working on our pre-game and game day network playbook in an effort to provide the best possible wireless experience for our customers,” said Michael Maus, assistant vice president of network services at AT&T, via email. “In anticipation of the huge volume of data and voice usage expected [for the Super Bowl], we’ve built a new state of the art antenna system inside the stadium, we’re rolling in portable cell sites both at the stadium, and to support the tailgate areas, and we’ve augmented coverage in New York City to support the activities there.”

Rooftop DAS equipment. Credit: Verizon Wireless

Rooftop DAS equipment. Credit: Verizon Wireless

For Verizon’s own customers, 4G LTE capacity at MetLife has been quadrupled since last year, according to Samberg, who said that all stadium upgrades were completed by October, giving Verizon multiple chances to test its system against crowds at New York Giants and New York Jets home games. So far, Samberg said, so good.

More traffic than last year’s Super Bowl already

While yours truly opined earlier this year that this year’s Super Bowl might not set a wireless traffic record, we didn’t take into account some simple numbers — mainly, that MetLife Stadium’s official capacity of 82,566 is bigger than the Superdome’s 72,003. So, even if it’s cold, having 10,000 more people on hand probably means more bandwidth consumed, even if this year’s game doesn’t have a power blackout in the second half. (And even if it does, Samberg said the network shouldn’t go down since Verizon has backup power supplies on hand.)

Find the DAS antenna! Credit: Verizon Wireless

Find the DAS antenna! Credit: Verizon Wireless

Our only problem with record wireless numbers from Sunday’s game is that we probably won’t ever see an actual number, since Verizon historically shies away from providing a score. Instead it just issues press releases saying things like “way more traffic this year than last!” and then expects us all to believe that without numbers. The good news for fans at the game is that the in-stadium Wi-Fi network, also built by Verizon, is free and open to customers of all carriers, or basically anyone with a device that has a Wi-Fi chip. But Verizon, like big competitor AT&T, has been beefing up its DAS installations significantly because most people try cellular first, even at stadiums, before instructing their phones to find a Wi-Fi network. AT&T, to its credit, usually does deliver a wireless scorecard quickly after big events. So at least from AT&T’s perspective we should find out if this year’s game sets another record.

Aside from the stadium improvements, Verizon will be showing a demonstration of a technology this week that could make DAS more of a competitor to Wi-Fi on the high bandwidth side of things. Called LTE multicast, the technology basically establishes set channels for LTE devices that will “broadcast” video, like a TV channel. (This idea is similar to the StadiumVision Mobile technology Cisco uses at stadiums like Barclays Center.) Theoretically, LTE multicast could let fans use a cellular connection to view multiple video streams, something you would need to use Wi-Fi for it to have any chance of working. But the multicast demo won’t take place at MetLife, but instead at Bryant Park in Manhattan this week. If you are in the city, check out the demo and let us know what you think.

No NFL Mobile at MetLife

And here’s something else you won’t be able to use at MetLife during the Super Bowl: Verizon’s own NFL Mobile app, which outside the stadium will be the only smartphone platform you’ll be able to watch the game on. (The Fox streaming site and app will only work with tablets and desktops or laptops, per the league’s rights agreement with Verizon.) Next year, the rights for NFL Mobile will change and if the local game (like, say, the Super Bowl) is on TV, you’ll be able to use NFL Mobile to watch it even if you’re at the stadium. But not this year! (To give one answer as to why, if you are at the game, you might want to watch it on your cell phone, we say: Bathroom or beer lines!)

More stadium infrastructure photos below:

AT&T DAS antennas at MetLife. Credit: AT&T

AT&T DAS antennas at MetLife. Credit: AT&T

AT&T's new head-end building at MetLife, where its DAS gear is housed. Credit: AT&T

AT&T’s new head-end building at MetLife, where its DAS gear is housed. Credit: AT&T

Inside the AT&T head-end building at MetLife. Cables! Credit: AT&T

Inside the AT&T head-end building at MetLife. Cables! Credit: AT&T