Touchdown for digital: Why the NFL’s online strategy makes for a winning game plan

nfl online game rewind sports footballThe National Football League kicked off its 2012-2013 season last week. As the United States’ most popular sport, this signals the return of football’s “total domination” of both television and your company’s water cooler.

The NFL hopes to dominate online, as well. Two significant assets will help with this effort: a good streaming plan and a forward-thinking digital strategist.

Good (though not perfect) digital distribution

Though no sport’s online plan is perfect, the NFL has the best of America’s four major sports.

For $39.99, NFL Game Rewind provides full, high-definition replays of every 2012 Regular Season game. While Game Rewind is flawed for not airing live game action, it makes up for it in other ways. For instance, the NFL even provides replays of its entire schedule of games with no blackout restrictions, which is very progressive when viewed in context of plans for other sports. As I wrote in April:

  • Though the NBA offers a for-pay online streaming plan in its League Pass service, blackout rules will prevent many viewers from watching games in which they will be most interested — those for their local teams and those nationally televised.
  • Major League Baseball’s MLB.TV is more expensive than any other league’s streaming plan and has even more blackout problems than NBA League Pass.
  • The NHL’s Gamecenter LIVE provides access to only out-of-market games and does not carry the Stanley Cup Playoffs. GameCenter Premium, the NHL’s playoff product, offers only radio broadcasts.
  • Don’t worry though, hockey fans. There likely will not be a season this year anyway, so you won’t have an opportunity to complain about that ridiculous “premium” plan.

The NFL’s plan really shines when it comes to additional features. Game Rewind provides access to not just this season’s games, but also to those from the last three seasons, plus 20 of the best Super Bowls ever broadcast. Game Pass has great features to enhance the viewing experience, too. You can watch up to four games simultaneously with the player, and use their “Big Play Markers” to instantly jump to the most important events in each game. The player also has “Condensed” streams, which cover all of the game’s pertinent action in about a half hour. New to the player this year is a Coaches Film view, which provides additional All-22 and EndZone viewing angles previously unavailable to the public.

nfl game pass football season streaming online sportsThe NFL’s contracts with its television partners are also very digital-friendly. The League’s best products — its playoffs and NBC’s phenomenal Sunday Night Football telecast — are streamed online for free. Further, more games will become available online over the course of the 2014-2022 NFL television contracts, which extend streaming rights to all networks.

It may not be perfect, but, for today, the NFL has the best online streaming plan of US major sports.

A smart, seasoned digital boss

Jeff Berman, NFL General Manage of Digital Media, is in charge of making sure things stay that way. In August, Berman provided some insight into the NFL’s high-level digital strategy in an interview with Bloomberg.

What we focus on, and this is very much the mandate from the commissioner, is creating world-class, extraordinary fan experiences. Obviously, revenue follows from that, and we have a healthy model that mixes ad revenue and transactional revenue. But, by creating world-class experiences for our fans, we know that we’re just creating more value overall for the NFL, and that’s an unequivocally good thing.

Berman hasn’t limited the NFL’s search for “world-class experiences” to the usual suspects like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. For instance, Bloomberg interviewed him when the NFL had just partnered with Google to bring Google+ Hangout video conferences to NFL.com fantasy football.

The NFL’s partnership with Google is a brilliant idea. Video conferencing will return face-to-face interaction to fantasy football drafts that often occur between participants separated by hundreds of miles. Including this feature differentiates the NFL’s fantasy football platform against competition from Yahoo!, ESPN, and a host of other companies. That Berman is apparently on a first-name basis with “Mark and Cheryl” at Facebook makes him strike all the more convincing a figure — though I do disagree with his assertion that Fantasy Football is “in many respects … the first social network.” I was also disappointed when he deflected a question about the NFL’s proportion of viewership from tablet and mobile devices.

google plus hangout nfl sports football2011 Mashable interview with Berman, when he discussed experimentation with Google+, Tumblr, and Pinterest provides further evidence of the NFL Digital Chief’s savviness. However, the best support for Berman’s credibility may be his history with MySpace.

Though once a candidate to be MySpace’s CEO, Berman departed the company in August 2009. He could hardly have chosen a better time to leave. Berman was at MySpace for much of the social network’s rise to, by some estimates, 114 million global visitors, but hardly any of its precipitous decline. It may have simply been good luck, but I theorize that Berman saw the writing on the wall at MySpace and got out while the getting was good.

Conclusion

NFL Game Rewind and the League’s 2014 TV contracts will ensure that the core experience of watching football online will only increase in quality. Jeff Berman will work to keep football’s peripheral experiences — like fantasy leagues and social media interactions — at the cutting edge.

As a football fan, I look forward to what Berman and his team can offer in the future.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Home Theater

I’ve seen the 8K TV future, and you should be excited. Here’s why

Samsung set the tech world on fire when it announced it would sell an 85-inch 8K TV in the U.S. along with several 8K screen sizes in Europe. Debates over the validity and value of such a high resolution have continued since, and we're here…
Deals

You can now watch soccer games online with streaming service ESPN+

Launched back in April, ESPN+ is a direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service. For a mere $5 a month or $50 per year, you can have access to the best sports content available including multiple soccer leagues.
Deals

College sports are yours to watch live online with an ESPN+ free trial

It can be difficult to catch all the college games, especially for smaller conferences. Well, thanks to ESPN+ that’s no longer the case. Now, you won't need to miss any of your alma mater rival games.
Movies & TV

How to watch NFL games online, with or without cable

The NFL's 2018 season is here, and we know you don't want to miss a moment of the action. Our comprehensive streaming guide will show you all the best options to watch the games online so you can make the right choice.
Gaming

These are the best Xbox One games available right now

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Mobile

Inferiority is a feature now! Palm's new plan is psychotic

The Palm is a smartphone to reduce your smartphone usage, or a small smartphone for when you don't want to carry your big smartphone. Palm itself doesn't seem sure which it is, but either way, it's a product that's so witless, we're amazed…
Home Theater

Budget TVs are finally worth buying, and you can thank Roku

Not all that long ago, budget TVs were only worth looking at if, well, you were on a budget. Thanks to Roku, not only are budget TVs now a viable option for anyone, but they might even be a better buy than more expensive TVs.
Mobile

Huawei and Leica’s monochrome lens is dead, so we celebrate its life

The Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro do not have a dedicated monochrome camera lens, unlike the P20 Pro, and various Huawei and Leica phones before it. It's the end of an era, and also the start of a new one, as Leica has worked on its…
Mobile

Smartphone makers are vomiting a torrent of new phones, and we’re sick of it

Smartphone manufacturers like Huawei, LG, Sony, and Motorola are releasing far too many similar phones. The update cycle has accelerated, but more choice is not always a good thing.
Opinion

Do we even need 5G at all?

Faster phones, easier access to on-demand video, simpler networking -- on the surface, 5G sounds like a dream. So why is it more of a nightmare?
Computing

Razer’s most basic Blade 15 is the one most gamers should buy

Razer's Blade 15 is an awesome laptop for both gamers, streamers, professionals, and anyone else needing serious go in a slim profile, but its price is out of reach for many games. The new Blade 15 Base solves that problem with few…
Gaming

Going to hell, again. The Switch makes 'Diablo 3' feel brand-new

I've played every version of Diablo 3 released since 2012, racking up hundreds of hours in the process. Six years later, I'm playing it yet again on Nintendo Switch. Somehow, it still feels fresh.
Home Theater

The Apple AirPods 2 needed to come out today. Here are four reasons why

Apple announced numerous new products at its October 30 event, a lineup that included a new iPad Pro, a MacBook Air, as well as a new Mac Mini. Here are four reasons we wish a new set of AirPods were on that list.
Gaming

‘Fallout 76’ may have online multiplayer but it’s still a desolate wasteland

"Is Fallout 76 an MMO?" That depends on who you ask. Critics and players often cite its online multiplayer capabilities as a reason it qualifies. Yet calling the game an MMO only confuses matters, and takes away from what could make…