The NFL Network and Verizon are providing glimpses into the future of sports on television through their NFL Network Game Extra package this year. The package offers eight Thursday/Saturday prime time games, which are viewed online through a broadband connection. Offered to Verizon broadband subscribers (FiOS or DSL) who also subscribe to a Verizon video package (either through a FiOS or Verizon DirecTV bundle), the package provides a variety of exclusive features that are not available for traditional television viewing – at least not yet.
The features include the ability to select from up to four camera angles; live online chats with other NFL Network Game Extra viewers during the live games; game statistics, highlights and drive-chart simulations during the games; and on-demand video highlights of the games. Verizon does not intend to charge for the package. While this experiment is limited to online viewing for now, it certainly represents the future of sports on television. These are the types of features that IPTV promises to deliver – true differentiation over the traditional viewing experience. To be fair, there’s nothing here that cable can’t emulate, and DirecTV has already demonstrated that they know how to leverage interactive sports packages for competitive differentiation through their venerable NFL Sunday Ticket package. It’s just a matter of time before these features make their way to the “big screen.” The NFL Network Game Extra is also a prime example of the growing convergence of broadband content with traditional television viewing, which will fuel further innovation in the total entertainment experience. Carriers who embrace this convergence and learn how to leverage it, will certainly gain competitive advantage.