Microsoft has announced it is spicing up the live football coverage available through its Xbox One NFL Network app by offering something that current cable and satellite boxes simply can’t: sports delivered at 60 frames per second. Thanks to a new partnership with the online streaming specialists at Neulion, Microsoft will be able to increase the frame rate of its live football app content to up to double the frame rate of broadcast TV.
Fast-motion content, especially sports, benefits from higher frame rates. The higher speeds work to provide a smoother, more lifelike viewing experience. Neulion is able to deliver the lofty frame rates thanks to the Xbox One’s lightning-fast video card and its advanced processing – something few current streaming devices can match.
According to CED Magazine, Neulion has struck a multi-year deal with Microsoft to deliver 24/7 live sports programming, on demand coverage, and a host of live stats updates, such as those necessary for the app’s Fantasy Football monitoring system. The company currently produces on-demand content for several other devices, including Roku, Apple TVs, and PS3s, and will likely be working on providing content for the PS4 in the near future.
Neulion will be handling all the dirty work necessary to deliver the live streams to the Xbox One from its cloud-based platform, including encoding, transcoding, and formatting the streams. To assure no buffering will take place, the streams will be provided at seven different tiers, ranging from the top stream of 720p HD resolution at 60fps (about 6 Mbps), to below SD resolution at 30fps (about 600 kbps). The frame rate and pixel resolution will depend upon a viewer’s bandwidth and network conditions. No word was given as to whether the app will be scaled up to full 1080p HD resolution, but the faster frame rate could make it worth sacrificing a few pixels. According to CED, sports networks, including ESPN, have said time and again that frame rate trumps resolution if given a choice between one or the other.
Like most apps of its kind, the NFL Network app requires a current subscription with a cable service that carries the channel, as well as an Xbox Live Gold membership, so cord-cutters will still be forced to find their sports by other means.
When Microsoft first announced the new Xbox One console last May, it made sure to emphasize that its next-gen console would be much more than just a gaming device, it would be an entertainment hub. As the console’s powerful new hardware capabilities are being exploited, we’re starting to find out exactly what a next-gen “entertainment hub” can do. Now, if it only could find a way to deliver sports content without an accompanying cable package, we’d really be impressed.