‘Fan Mobile Pass’ will serve as NFL’s Super Bowl 52 app, from pregame activities to game day functions

For the second year in a row, the NFL is building its own mobile app for the Super Bowl, this time with a single-application strategy meant to cover both fan activities the week before Super Bowl LII, as well as game-day functionality at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

In a phone interview Thursday with Aaron Amendolia, vice president of IT services for the NFL’s office of the CIO, Amendolia said the new strategy of having a single app for pre-game and game-day activity was meant to drive adoption and eliminate confusion over which app fans might need for various Super Bowl interactions. Last year, the NFL tried to harmonize its Super Bowl app strategy but still required fans to use a separate app — the NFL Mobile app — to see game highlights and other content.

Though the Super Bowl 52 app is not yet available for download, fans can sign up on the Super Bowl app website for a chance to win tickets to the big game, while also providing personal information that Amendolia said will assist with the league’s quest to bring more “personalization” to the experience.

“There’s more gamification to the app, with the opportunity for fans to win achievements” through the week, Amendolia said. According to the sign-up web page, there will be a heavy focus on social media engagement, with promises of availability of free autographs from current and past NFL stars; the ability to take a picture of the Super Bowl trophy; and to see images of all 51 Super Bowl rings. There will also be sponsor-activation activities throughout Minneapolis, most likely at the NFL Super Bowl Live fan site on Nicollet Mall and other Super Bowl events, where presumably fans can “check in” with the app’s QR code to earn rewards.

Wayfinding maps, but no blue dots

For both the week before and game day, Amendolia said the app will have wayfinding maps, but they won’t be active “blue dot” wayfinding, even though that feature is supported in the Vikings’ own stadium app, which was developed for the Vikings by app developer VenueNext.

“We did discuss [beacon-enabled] options, but there are some challenges to that that are unique to the Super Bowl,” said Amendolia, noting things like temporary structures and closed roads for Super Bowl activities that could be harder to integrate into maps. For wayfinding beyond maps, Amendolia said there would be a heavy reliance on digital signage information in and around the stadium to help fans find their way.

Like last year, the NFL Super Bowl app will not have any functionality allowing fans to order food or drinks for delivery or express pickup, with the latter being a service that was tested at Vikings home games this season. The app will allow fans to pre-order merchandise and pick it up at locations around town during the week before the game, Amendolia said, and will also allow suite ticketholders to order merchandise for pickup during the game.

One interesting question is whether or not the Vikings will be allowed to make their own app active for the game if they make the Super Bowl by beating the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC championship this weekend. If so, it would represent the first time an NFL team played in the Super Bowl at its home stadium, an issue never faced in the era of team apps. Vikings officials did not respond yet to questions about the possible availability of the team app for the Super Bowl, but we will update this post if and when they do.

NFL, Verizon announce new deal to bring live games to all mobile customers via Yahoo

The NFL and Verizon announced a deal Monday that will provide live streaming of in-market and national NFL games to any mobile device regardless of carrier, mainly via Verizon’s Yahoo and Yahoo Sports platforms. The service is set to be available in January, for streaming of this year’s NFL playoffs.

According to the Wall Street Journal the deal is $2 billion for 5 years. Under the new plan Verizon has lost its former exclusive deal for mobile devices — a 4-year, $1 billion deal that was up after this season — for the ability to show more NFL games to a potentially much larger audience via Yahoo. Verizon said it will also make the games available via its g090 platform, as well as the NFL Mobile app. [Our friend Todd Spangler over at Variety has a good recap of the deal with more programming details.]

The games available look to be the same ones Verizon had via the NFL Mobile app — mainly any “national” games (including Thursday night, Sunday night and Monday night games) as well as local-market games. The plan will also include playoff games and the Super Bowl.

Also not yet known is whether or not Verizon will continue to make live NFL action free of data charges to its customers. For the past two seasons Verizon has promoted the no-data-charges option but has also run into many issues with the implementation, with many fans reporting inconsistent experiences around whether or not their accounts were charged data when they shouldn’t have been. When asked if the data-free plan would continue under the new deal, a Verizon spokesperson said Monday “we have not disclosed that information yet.”

According to the NFL the new deal does NOT include streaming of the NFL Network’s popular RedZone channel, which shows an unending stream of commercial-free live look-ins at all NFL games. For the past two seasons, RedZone access has been available to Verizon customers via the NFL Mobile app for an extra $1.99 per month charge. According to the NFL the RedZone mobile access plan for next season has yet to be determined.

Verizon says it is ‘improving the data crediting process’ to address NFL Mobile data-charge snafus

Verizon said it is “improving the data crediting process” for its popular NFL Mobile app, which has apparently caused many headaches this season with users who claimed the cell provider wasn’t following through with its promise to make watching live NFL action free from any data charges.

If comments on Mobile Sports Report blog posts are any indication of wider unrest, there are many NFL Mobile users who have been erreneously charged for wireless data used while watching the live NFL games provided by the NFL Mobile app. In our blog post announcing Verizon’s claim that all NFL Mobile live action this season would be free of data charges, we guessed that Verizon’s unclear answers about so-called “unlimited” versus metered plans meant that the provider hadn’t fully figured out how to correctly bill users of the app. Seems like we were more right than we wanted to be.

A quick scroll through any of the 20-plus comments our blog post received from frustrated users seems to show that on many levels, Verizon’s billing and customer service reps were on different pages when it came to NFL Mobile data use. After more than a month of inquiries to Verizon about the claims by our commenters, this week we finally received an official reply from a Verizon spokesperson. Here it is:

Verizon is committed to providing live games on NFL Mobile data free to our customers and resolving any related billing disputes. We have made recent adjustments improving the data crediting process to reduce usage alerts and to ensure our customers receive consistent answers when they contact our support organization.

Without actually admitting to any problems, Verizon’s statement about “improving the data crediting process” and other issues seems to be a tacit admission that not all was well, an issue that seems to affect NFL Mobile just about every year.

Football fans, however, may have another choice next season when it comes to watching live games on phones, with recent reports claiming that Verizon’s 4-year, $1 billion deal for exclusive rights won’t be renewed.

Verizon: Still no data charges for live NFL streaming via NFL Mobile app

There’s less fanfare around the decision this year (and no official press release we can find) but according to Verizon for the 2017 NFL season the wireless carrier will continue its plan from last year and won’t charge its metered-plan customers for data used while watching live NFL games via the NFL Mobile app.

UPDATE, Nov. 4: Please see this post with a Verizon response to NFL Mobile billing issues.

As we noted last year, some of the most-read stories in Mobile Sports Report history have been posts wondering about how much data customers might use watching a live football game on their phones. The answer now, for many Verizon customers, is easy: It’s still zero. You will still need to pay $1.99 a month again this fall to watch RedZone on your phone via NFL Mobile, but watching the live local and national-broadcast games (like Sunday night games and Monday Night Football) won’t chew up any of the gigabytes in your data plan. That is, if you have a data plan.

Where it may get tricky — and NFL Mobile and Verizon have a history of things not going quite as planned — is when it comes to customers on Verizon’s new “unlimited” plans. The first reply we got from our Verizon contact said, “Customers with metered plans will also enjoy games data free.”

But what about unlimited customers, we asked. Would NFL Mobile live-action data still be charged to them? This matters somewhat because the plans aren’t truly unlimited — some slowdowns to service can occur if you use more than 22 GB of data during a billing cycle. So it’s unclear to us what will happen if “unlimited” NFL Mobile users go past that number by say, watching every game possible over a cellular connection.

Does that mean that NFL Mobile junkies might actually do better with a metered plan than an unlimited plan? We have no clue. Here is the clarified second response to that question when we posed it to a Verizon spokesperson, so see if it makes sense to you:

Regarding unlimited; most of the time you’ll enjoy the same network experience after your line exceeds 22 GB during a billing cycle. If you exceed 22 GB…and you’re on a cell site that’s congested at that time, it may affect your streaming.

This may be just a small-potatoes quibble, but readers please let us know if things aren’t as free as they should be. What is helpful to know is this fact from the Verizon spokesperson: “Data usage from NFL Mobile may accrue real time when watching, but will be removed afterward in 24-48 hours.” Close watchers of data totals last year hit our comment boards with tales of being charged for NFL Mobile game-watching, but we believe it all turned out right in the end. But our comments space is always open if it doesn’t so please, NFL Mobile fans, keep letting us know what’s really happening out there.

As we also noted last year, many NFL Mobile veterans almost always seek a Wi-Fi connection when they are streaming NFL Mobile games, because better bandwidth and no data charges.

And remember: You can’t watch NFL Mobile live games on your tablet, because Verizon’s rights package only includes cellular phone-type devices.

NFL builds its own Super Bowl app, with no concessions delivery and fewer replays

Screen shot of map function on NFL Super Bowl LI app.

Screen shot of map function on NFL Super Bowl LI app.

The NFL has built its own Super Bowl mobile app, breaking with a recent history of using stadium-app specialists like VenueNext and YinzCam to develop specific apps for Super Sunday.

Also unlike recent years, the NFL’s Super Bowl app will not feature instant replays or have any kind of food or drink delivery services. Instead, there appears to be a big focus on promoting Super Bowl events (especially those for this weekend) and for helping out of town tourists find their way to Super Bowl events and to the game itself.

Curiously, an interview about the app with the NFL’s CIO claimed that this year’s app will also be the first to include the ability for fans at the game to watch Super Bowl commercials. The story also claims without any attribution that “In the past, commercials weren’t on the app in order to avoid using too much bandwidth in the stadium.” However, at the most recent Super Bowls, including the past two, stadium bandwidth has been more than sufficient enough to stream plenty of video. And in fact, both of the last two Super Bowl apps have included the ability for fans at the game to see Super Bowl commercials.

Last year’s app, developed by VenueNext for the Levi’s Stadium hosting of Super Bowl 50, definitely showed Super Bowl commercials, part of what the San Francisco 49ers network team said was a record-breaking day of app-based video watching. The Super Bowl 49 app, built by YinzCam, also included Super Bowl commercials according to this NFL video and according to our previous reporting.

Fewer replays, no food or beverage delivery service

Screen shot of transportation info links from Super Bowl LI app.

Screen shot of transportation info links from Super Bowl LI app.

And even though NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle is quoted in the previous story about the new app as saying “You won’t feel like you’re using two separate apps as fans have in the past,” the Super Bowl LI app contains a link to download the separate NFL Mobile app, which is apparently where Super Bowl highlights and replays will live. There was no confirmation from the NFL or Verizon about whether or not fans in the stands would be able to watch the live broadcast of the game via NFL Mobile. Fans not at the game will be able to use NFL Mobile to watch the game on cellular devices; fans can also stream the game from the FoxSports website, for PCs or tablet devices.

This year’s app will also not include any way for fans to use the app to order food or beverage delivery to their seats; last year’s app did have the ability to order in-seat delivery of beverages or to place an order for food and beverage express pickup, a service used for 3,284 orders. NRG Stadium, however, does not offer full-stadium in-seat ordering like Levi’s Stadium does; the stadium does have serving staff with wireless devices providing in-seat ordering services for club sections, which will likely be in use at the Super Bowl as well.

Verizon correcting bills to make sure NFL streaming is really ‘free’

Screen Shot 2016-09-09 at 10.29.06 PMIf you are a Verizon Wireless customer who rejoiced at the announcement earlier this fall that the wireless carrier wouldn’t charge for data used for watching live NFL action via its NFL Mobile app, you can stay happy — even if you do initially see some data charges on your monthly bill.

After being alerted by a Mobile Sports Report reader that data charges were still showing up after a user watched some NFL games, we asked Verizon if their promotion was up and working. According to an email response from an unnamed Verizon authority, it appears that while Verizon was making the NFL action free, the streaming of ads was not — but never fear, Verizon said it is crediting users’ bills for any ads watched while watching football via the NFL Mobile app.

Here is the official response we got from Verizon’s PR company, attributed to “someone at Verizon” (seriously, that’s how it was worded to us):

“The NFL live games are automatically zero rated so they won’t count against customer’s data. Ads during the games are not, but we are issuing customers additional data (1GB or more depending on each customer’s NFL streaming) or post bill credits to cover the usage incurred from the ads. That process is disclosed in the disclaimers and the bonus data is issued automatically when a customer streams an NFL live game. We are monitoring this closely to make sure all customers do get a truly free NFL experience with a combination of automatic zero rating, additional data or bill credits as needed.”

As you continue to watch for free maybe give a shout out to Gary for spending 40 minutes on the phone with Verizon customer support, a painful experience we know well. Anyone else still seeing data charges for football with no refunds, let us know.