From the on-screen score box to high-definition telecasts to the yellow first-down line, innovation has become a huge part of NFL viewing. It's about to take the next step.
Microsoft, which entered a five-year, $400 million deal with the NFL in May, on Friday launched Xbox One, which will provide fans with pretty much everything but snacks as they watch the action.
The idea for the device is to take the information viewers consume on second and third screens, from checking on their fantasy teams to devouring stats and chatting with friends, and put it all on the main screen in their home.
"Our vision for Xbox One is to enable a new level of interactive entertainment that makes your games, TV, movies, and sports come alive," says Yusuf Mehdi, Xbox chief marketing and strategy officer. "Our partnership with the NFL is in support of creating the most compelling NFL experience in your home on Xbox One and on the side line with Microsoft Surface."
Soon, NFL coaching staffs will be able to use the Surface tablet for game-planning.
"For consumers, you can now snap the NFL experience on your TV screen next to live games so you can track your fantasy players stats while you watch the game," Mehdi says. "On the sideline, we aim to bring the power of Microsoft technology to coaches and players to help them view plays and improve the game."
Quarterback Russell Wilson usually is too busy on Sundays leading his Seahawks to dive into all the technology available for the armchair QBs around the nation. But he sees the value in what Xbox One offers, from live game action to stats and news and Skype or Snap, all of which are available on the single screen.
"Most people these days watch the NFL on TV, while also having a laptop or phone handy to check on their fantasy football teams and other games," Wilson says. "The NFL on Xbox One changes all of that by bringing all that information onto one screen, with stats updating in real time.
"I don't have much time to play fantasy football, but I know plenty of friends and fans who will love how the NFL on Xbox One. This app will help them keep up with their teams on game day with real-time updates and highlights available right beside the game you're watching on television."
Available along with live game telecasts will be NFL RedZone and NFL Network; Snap, through which fantasy teams can be tracked while still watching the game on the screen; and Skype for, well, trash-talking with folks at the other end. Roughly 20 million Americans play fantasy football.
"These new consoles are really advanced, and the integration of the new user interfaces and experiences, such as the NFL and ESPN on Xbox, will bring a totally new type of sport experience to the console," says Brian Blau, research director in consumer technologies at Gartner, Inc., an information technology research and advisory company in Stamford, Conn.
"Today for the sports fan they have to bring together a PC, mobile device, and maybe have multiple devices to get the same type of experience that the new sports experiences on Xbox will deliver. Imagine being able to watch a game, get sports stats, be social about it, and even during the breaks then go off and play a sport video game, all of this will be new types of experiences and user interfaces for the sports fan."
The NFL on Xbox One requires advanced TV hardware, broadband internet, and special accounts with nfl.com and Xbox.
"Today what you are seeing in terms of the NFL and ESPN Xbox One apps is really just the start," Blau says.
Can all of this become too much, too distracting from the product itself: the game.
"I don't think so at all," Wilson says. "If anything, many fans, especially those that play fantasy football, are already distracted by checking updates on the laptops and phones. The NFL on Xbox One puts all the information fans care about most together on the (same) screen in your home."