Microsoft and NFL Team Up for Interactive Game Broadcasts

Microsoft has announced a partnership with the NFL to develop technology that will make football games more interactive for Xbox Live subscribers. The deal, reportedly worth $400 million over the next five years, was announced yesterday during Microsoft’s unveiling of its next-generation Xbox One gaming console. It marks the latest digital step by the NFL to enhance its live game broadcasts.

According to Variety, features “will include letting viewers split their screen to access stats, their fantasy football team info, highlights and Skype with fans during game broadcasts and send additional data to mobile devices and tablets with the second-screen SmartGlass technology.”

Additionally, the NFL is considering distributing Surface tablets to coaches and referees during games to help monitor formations or replays. As a result, Microsoft will have its logo appear on the hoods of instant replay stations and devices held by referees.

“When you think about the sidelines, what is most important for us is how you make the game of football better, make what the coaches and players do better, using technology but preserving the competition,” suggests Brian Rolapp, chief operating officer of NFL Media.

“The challenge is how to bring technology to make it a better experience for them and for the fans,” he explains. “You can start with how we communicate with each other, whether it’s game officials or coaches. Coaches can look at formations as they develop. We’ll look at how do you do the still photos better, get more into real time? Is there a more efficient way to give replay officials a way of doing reviews better through technology?”

“This was smart by the NFL because it is signed up for five years of interactivity, then it can evaluate what works best and maybe go on with Microsoft or go to another communications company or even the networks,” says Marc Ganis, president of SportsCorp, which consults for the NFL. “Had they gone to the networks now, it would have been a hodge-podge.”

“Financial terms of the pact were not publicly disclosed but the overall fee was confirmed by sources close to the negotiations,” notes Variety. “The NFL must still discuss just how much exposure Microsoft will get and make recommendations to team owners in the coming year.”

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