Aug 23

family-watching-football-on-xboxImagine Tom Brady using a Surface tablet to dissect his latest touchdown pass – discussing the play from a variety of angles while sitting on the sidelines minutes after the pass. Or Bill Belichick scrolling through different plays on his tablet rather than checking a stack of printouts on the sidelines. And for the fans at home, imagine watching the game live, video chatting your friends in another city, and tracking your fantasy team’s performance – all from your TV screen. Thanks to a new partnership between Microsoft and the NFL, the way coaches call the game – and the way fans experience the game at home – is about to change.

The New Deal

The Microsoft-NFL deal, announced earlier this year and valued at an estimated $400 million over four years for the NFL, will put tablets on the sidelines and offer fans at home a plethora of interactive viewing opens. New fan features include the ability to Skype video chat with other fans, access real-time highlights, track fantasy football performance, and – of course – watch the games. These interactive features will be available via Microsoft Xbox as well as mobile devices and tablets with SmartGlass technology.

The Xbox Experience

So what would an NFL viewing experience look like for Xbox users? Consider this – an Eagles fan could be watching his team take on the Cowboys, while conversing with a friend in Dallas, all from the same screen. The screen would also display statistics from the game, replays, access to NFL RedZone, and real-time stats from across the league so both friends could track their fantasy football performance.

The Microsoft-NFL partnership is the first to integrate live games with real-time fantasy statistics updates. According to Don Mattrick, president of the IEB Division of Microsoft, “NFL on Xbox will provide the most complete way to enjoy live football by bringing the first fully integrated fantasy football experience to the TV.”

While a plethora of new features will be accessible for Xbox One users, the games themselves will not be streaming directly through the gaming console. NFL game packages, like those offered by Direct-ticket.net, will still be necessary in order to view the games.

The Sideline Tech

The technology upgrades are not just for fans back home. Football analysts say that the introduction of tablets on the sidelines may also have a major impact on the game.

From coach headsets to earpieces in the quarterback’s helmet, analysts have previously criticized the NFL for being slow to embrace new technology. This slow movement is understandable, as the NFL must carefully walk the line between embracing innovation and protecting one of America’s most beloved games. While this is the first time that the NFL will allow tablets on the sidelines, many NFL and college teams have already replaced paper playbooks with iPads. This allows players to watch video at anytime and from anyplace, while coaches can track which plays have – or have not – watched tape.

For teams that can successfully embrace the new tablets, this technology could impact everything from clock management at the end half to decisions regarding two-point conversions. Football analysts say the tablets could spark real-time innovation, leading to more on-the-fly formations, trick plays and teams going for it on fourth down. The capabilities of a team’s IT department might one day be as important as the strength of its special teams.

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