Friday, September 10, 2010

Are you ready for some football? Broadcasters release mobile & iPad apps to support broadcast programming

In case you didn't know, its football season again. Last night the first NFL game of the year took place -- I missed it, being more concerned about the Giants-Padres game -- and so it makes perfect sense that one of the networks would want to release a mobile app for the sport.
In fact, there are lots of smartphone apps already released including several from ESPN: ESPN Fantasy Football 2010 and ESPN Fantasy Football Draft Kit, for instance. In total, ESPN has 21 sports apps in the iTunes App Store.

But the slate of iPad apps is considerably smaller. To support its Sunday Night Football program, NBC Universal released an app last week that offers a slate of features, but streaming live video is not one of them. On the other hand, NBC's Notre Dame Central HD app says that you can purchase live coverage of ND home games vis WiFi or 3G right from within the app -- assuming you care that much about Notre Dame football -- NBC certainly does since they pay a fortune to broadcast the team.
Today CBS Interactive released only its second iPad app, this one for football. CBS Sports Pro Football for iPad is a free app that supports both its football broadcasts and its fantasy games. While it will offer streaming video highlights, it does not offer live broadcasts, presumably the NFL still holds those rights.

Unfortunately for pro football fans, the offerings from the NFL in total include two iPhone apps: one free that offers very little, another paid that offers no live broadcasts either, but does let users send $4.99 to the NFL.

To watch live football DirecTV is the only option, I believe. There NFL SuperFan app was launched last year, and if you are a subscriber to Sunday Ticket you can watch live games on your phone. DirecTV had promised an iPad version of the app, but to date it has not appeared in iTunes, though if they are serious I would expect it soon.

Comcast is at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to pro football. The cable operator does not offer a package to compete with Sunday Ticket and so must depend on its RedZone channel to show live feeds whenever a team is about to score. It works to a certain degree, so why no RedZone app?

In fact, Comcast app offerings continue to amount to just one iPhone app -- and app that I find fantastic, by the way, despite complaints from some users about crashes (which I suspect are the fault of the user).

Comcast has early on said they were enthusiastic about the iPad, announcing back in May that they would launch an app that would pair their cable box with the iPad. But here we are in September and Comcast users are still waiting.

[Comcast also has another app called XFINITY Home Security, but the app only works in Houston, Texas where it offers this service.]

One thing that did not surprise me was to see so few newspapers launching their own specialty sports apps. The days of newspapers recognizing and understanding revenue opportunities appears long gone. For those who continue to show their ignorance by claiming that newspapers are failing because print is dying, it should be pointed out that nothing stops newspapers from launching specialty websites or apps except, of course, the newspapers themselves.

Any older than 30 should remember the days when the special section was the norm: there were so many special sections, I suppose, that selling the actual newspaper became passé.

One of 52 apps from EffectiV, which generally cost
$0.99 to $1.99 and take advantage of team loyalty.

During my time with Hearst in L.A., the annual Dodgers section was a big event, complete with an all-hands-on-deck sales meeting to kick it off. I can still remember Tommy Lasorda attending one of the meetings and giving the sales staff the best motivation speech probably even heard by that staff. Unfortunately, the effects of the speech lasted only until one reached their desk and called their customers, when they were rudely and instantly reminded that we were not the L.A. Times.

One of the few footballs apps inside the App Store is from Lee Enterprises, the publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The paid app was developed by Handmark.

Because of the opening created by local media, developers have swooped in to launch their own apps, often paid, that pull in RSS feeds from the local paper, and sometimes offer YouTube videos, as well. They generally cost 99 cents because that is the most they would be able to pry from unsuspecting smartphone users.