The NFL has released a brand new video service which I have to say is short of spectacular.
The service known as NFL Now is your one-stop shop for NFL highlights, analysis and behind-the-scenes footage of what is happening with your favorite players and teams. There's a free tier and a premium tier which costs $1.99 per month.
POSITIVES - It's design is attractive to the eye but also simplistic, it's very reminiscent of what you see on NFL.com. The news bits, analysis videos and highlights are also made for the internet. They are succinct, to the point and give you all the details you need to know.
It's easy to catch up on the league, your favorite teams and favorite players on this app because it doesn't take as much time as it would if you were watching television. If you have a short attention span and love the NFL, this service is for you.
My favorite feature on this service is the browsing capabilities it offers. As you're browsing through the site to see the other videos which are available, the video player shrinks and continues playing whatever you're watching at the moment without interruption.
NEGATIVES - Despite the quality of this service, there are still some issues. The video player doesn't adjust to the internet connection you're using like Netflix and YouTube. If you have a slower connection, expect to either pause the videos you're watching and wait for them to load up or watch as while the video lags. Sometimes, even after you've let the video load up, it still pauses.
I'm also surprised that none of the NFL Films content is available on the free tier. I thought the NFL would at least give a preview of what subscribers could receive if they paid $1.99 per month.
The other thing I'd like to see happen in the future is to make videos embeddable. It's the only way any of NFL Now's videos will ever go viral.
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT? - NFL Now will be available at nfl.com/now and on the "NFL Now" app on mobile devices. The only other place you'll be able to watch NFL Now content will be on Yahoo Sports and Yahoo Screen. All of the NFL Films content available on NFL Now will be exclusive to this service since all NFL content and videos have been removed from the NFL's former distributor, Hulu.
LIVE CONTENT VS. ON DEMAND - Alex Reithmiller, spokesman for NFL Media, told me that while there will be some live programming on the network, most of the videos available will be previously recorded. "That said, much of this on demand content will be programming that was produced that same day or within a week so it will be fresh."
HOW WILL THIS AFFECT NFL NETWORK - "NFL Now is meant to be complimentary to NFL Network and we have every expectation that if anything, it will increase interest in NFL Network programming," Reithmiller said. "NFL fans have proven over time that they have an insatiable appetite for NFL content and the more access they have to NFL content, the more consumption occurs across all platforms."
MY SUGGESTIONS -
- Mix and match well-known personalities from some of the NFL's biggest TV/radio partners and team them up with unknown personalities from NFL Now or NFL Network's personnel. For example, why not give Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin their own weekly 3-minute video segment to rant and rave about hot topics. You would give viewers another reason to leave the sports websites they normally visit.
- Even though all of the league partners have their own television networks, personalities that call games on their air aren't required to be on their for the other 6 days a week as long as they aren't working for a direct competitor and they get permission from their main employer. It's the reason why Cris Collinsworth worked on "Inside The NFL" for so long.
- Give some players their own shows. By doing so, players have an opportunity to practice their communications craft before they retire and viewers also get even more inside access into what it's like to be an NFL player both on and off the field. The show could be in the form of a weekly live hangout or it could be a call-in show or even an edited show with cameras following the player throughout the week.
- Team up with some of the NFL's digital partners for joint digital productions. For example, the NFL owns a stake in The Whistle Sports. Why not get some stunt trickster famous YouTubers (like "Dude Perfect") who are signed under The Whistle to film a football-based series exclusively for NFL Now? Maybe even give some of Yahoo Sports' (distributors of NFL Now) or Sporting News (distributors of NFL highlights online) writers their own fantasy segments to add content to the site.
- Just as the NBA has done with "The Starters" and ESPN did with "Men In Blazers," the NFL should look for content providers from grassroots fan podcasts and turn them into major online productions just like they're about to do with Rich Eisen. It'll be well worth it to bring in a fanbase even if it means that you have to team up with another company just like the NFL will do with DirecTV. Suggestions include: The Ross Tucker Podcast, The Audible, The Fantasy Football Guys, Pro Football Focus
- Serve as the online home for football coverage of some of the nation's biggest conferences. For example, NFL Now could take on digital content from the Pac 12 Network and the Big Ten Network. NFL Now could even air games from other leagues such as the CFL, Arena Football, development leagues, high school and college all-star competitions, international leagues etc.
- Put your advertisers to good use and create native advertising via video. If the video is authentic enough, it might draw viewers who typically aren't visiting NFL Now.
- A live component during Sunday's games which viewers can watch as their second screen which provides highlights of some of the NFL's best players together with injury information, the amount of fantasy points the player is accruing and the percentage of fantasy players who started the NFL player.