November 6, 2011; Pittsburgh,PA, USA: Officials review a play at the instant replay booth during the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field. The Ravens won 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE

NFL Set to Improve Game Day Experience with Replays and Audio App


The NFL is trying to improve the in-stadium experience for fans to help get butts in the seats.  It’s not at all a problem in Chicago, but in other cities, attendance is a problem.  Look no further than cities like Jacksonville and Tampa Bay to see empty seats and TV blackouts.   The NFL is trying to fix that by offering some enticements to get people into the seats.

First, they’re going to allow fans in the stadium to view the exact replay angles that the referee will be viewing while under the hood.  It’s a contrast to the ways things have been up until now.  If you’ve ever been to a game and there’s been a controversial play requiring replay, the Jumbotron goes to a still image or something other than the play you want to see.  That’s all about to change.

“They’ll see the exact same angles at the exact same time as he does,” Rich McKay, the Atlanta Falcons’ president and NFL competition committee chairman, said this week.

“I think this is another example of the league listening to its fans about what they want from the in-game experience,” McKay said. “I think throughout this edition of replay, the league, the teams and our broadcast partners have done a nice job of using the available technology to make the game better and make the experience better for the fans.”

The improved replay will be awesome for the in-stadium experience but it leaves me wondering if the league will be able to keep it exclusive to the stadia and the TV networks don’t pick it up.  If it stays exclusive, it’s a big win for Soldier Field and the other 31 NFL stadiums.

The other big boon for NFL Sundays is something I’ve been touting for a while – mic’d up players.  The NFL will be offering an app for your smartphone so you can pick up the on-field chatter of players wearing microphones.

The idea is that bolstering cell reception and adding wireless will enable fans to re-create the living room in their stadium seats. Fans can receive highlights and replays of the game on the field, or other games across the country. Pete Ward, chief operating officer of the Colts, said this year that the team will unleash a new app for on-demand highlights for fans at the game. “Your smartphone is your replay screen in our stadium,” Mr. Ward said.

The Wi-Fi will be free, the league said. Other services might cost extra.

Owners have granted permission for the league to place microphones on certain players so that fans can hear on-field commentary via an in-the-work app that would distribute raw feeds. That is a privilege previously awarded only to networks holding broadcast rights.

The NFL has already mandated that teams have in their stadiums a channel called NFL Red Zone, which shows all plays from around the league within the 20 yard-line. That feature can also be used on some smartphones.

The nice thing about this is that when NFL Network or one of the local stations mics up up a player, you get the edited, diluted, made-for-TV version.  With this app, you’ll get the raw footage.  It’s a game changer that I think will add tremendous value to the in-stadium experience.

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