NFL on track for live OTT streaming? Not yet

The release of a new second-screen app by the NFL this week featuring archived footage of games, highlights and interviews has some viewers speculating that the league will follow up with its own live streaming of NFL games. Not likely, experts say.

"No, there are no live games. The NFL's ridiculously lucrative deals--including a huge new digital deal with Microsoft--don't allow it," an article in The Verge explained.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and the NFL announced a digital partnership in May that brings "interactive television experiences" to Xbox One and Surface tablet users.

The NFL is also just in the third year of its billion-dollar TV rights deals, finalized with networks in 2011 and which don't expire until 2022.

Furthermore, the NFL's chief digital officer, Perkins Miller, told CNET that NFL Now's goal is to complement live games on the big screen, not replace that experience with a small-screen mobile one.

The app is available on mobile devices using either iOS, Android or Windows operating systems, as well as on Xbox consoles and on Roku streaming devices. It's also rumored to be coming to Apple TV soon.

Viewers can access much of the content for free, or subscribe for $1.99 monthly to get game-day highlights and an ad-free viewing experience.

The NFL announced the online app back in January.

Reviews for NFL Now on mobile devices are mixed, but that's not unusual for apps launching to a large-scale audience. (WatchESPN, for example, rates only about a half-point higher on the Google Play (NASDAQ: GOOG) store, with reviewers mostly complaining of device compatibility issues.) Android users complained that the app is a battery hog. "It took up more of my battery than I have ever seen an app take up," one consumer wrote in a review on the Google Play store.

Other reviewers said they were holding out on downloading the app until it was available for Chromecast, something the NFL told Gigaom is a possible future target, along with other connected TV platforms.

Reviews of the iOS version of the app were far fewer, but more positive. Still, reviewers on both operating systems complained that there was little content of interest for users who didn't have a paid subscription.

So, despite the ever-increasing popularity of live sports streaming, thanks to big events like the World Cup, and the leap some providers like WWE have taken to an online format, don't expect to see an exclusively NFL-branded live-streaming app. At least, not this season. Fans, for now, are more likely to see live-streamed games provided through distributors--including broadcast networks and cable or satellite operators, like DirecTV's (NASDAQ: DTV) NFL Sunday Ticket multiscreen package.

For more:
- Gigaom has this story
- The Verge has this story
- CNET has this article
- see the NFL Now website

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