‘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.

The Super Bowl LII app is now available for download, and 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.

AT&T to provide backbone bandwidth for Mercedes-Benz Stadium Wi-Fi

In a somewhat surprising announcement, AT&T said it will provide backbone bandwidth for the Wi-Fi network at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, as part of a partnership deal that makes the carrier the “Official Communications Provider” for the Atlanta Falcons’ new home.

Announced today, the deal calls for AT&T to provide twin redundant 40 Gbps pipes to power the 1,800 Wi-Fi APs that are inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. As reported earlier by MSR, the Mercedes-Benz Wi-Fi network will primarily use under-seat AP deployments in the seating bowl.

AT&T said it will also provide “monitoring and maintenance” for the stadium’s Wi-Fi network, and will also bring its DirecTV service to the venue’s IPTV system, making that content available to the more than 2,000 digital displays in the stadium. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is scheduled to formally open later this summer, for one of the Falcons’ preseason games.

What makes this announcement interesting to the stadium networking industry is the fact that there is no mention of any participation by AT&T on the venue’s DAS network, which will be running on Corning equipment. For most of the recent past, AT&T has been pulling away from stadium Wi-Fi deployments and concentrating on DAS funding in large public venues. Its main competitor Verizon Wireless has been much more active recently on the stadium Wi-Fi front, helping fund Wi-Fi deployments in a number of NFL stadiums, including those in Green Bay, Denver, Seattle, Houston and others. AT&T does continue to participate in network deployments at AT&T Park in San Francisco and AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, among others.

The press release out today does not say whether or not AT&T customers will have their own SSID or network space reserved, a feature Verizon usually secures for its customers when it helps fund a stadium’s Wi-Fi network. The release did say that as part of the deal AT&T will also sponsor the “AT&T Perch,” which is described as “a permanent interactive gathering spot” located on the concourse above the stadium’s west end zone. According to the release the Perch will have multiple screens where fans can watch NFL content including DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket programming and the NFL Network’s RedZone channel.

Twitter’s NFL streaming debut fails on Tweet front; will AT&T and Verizon eventually dominate mobile device NFL streaming?

Twitter’s debut in live-streaming NFL games had good video, but the accompanying Twitter feed — which users couldn’t configure — left many observers wanting more. Will Twitter ever be able to deliver, or will physics keep Twitter from being able to add anything special to mobile-device sports streaming? In the latest STADIUM TECH REPORT PODCAST, co-hosts Phil Harvey and Paul Kapustka dissect Twitter’s streaming issues, and wonder when people will realize that AT&T and Verizon may be the eventual winners in the NFL streaming battle with their Sunday Ticket and NFL Mobile platforms. Listen now!

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Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes!