- Verizon Media introduced two features on Yahoo to immerse viewers in live events as the NFL's regular season kicks off today. The "watch together" feature lets fans see live football games in the Yahoo Sports app while having a free video chat with friends and family, according to an announcement.
- Starting with tonight's opening game between Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans, fans can invite up to three people to co-view a livestream of the game on their smartphones. Users of Yahoo Mail for the first time this season can watch NFL games by tapping on a new "videos" tab in its iOS and Android apps.
- Yahoo Sports is giving sports fans a more immersive way to view and interact with football games this season, as the pandemic prevents some teams from hosting attendees in person. It will add an augmented reality (AR) feature called "Yahoo Sports PlayAR," giving fans a way to see immersive, near real-time replays of key moments in every NFL game. The feature will be available for live games on Yahoo Sports starting Sunday, and will be integrated with the NFL's statistical data that shows real-time information about players.
The start of the NFL's regular season gives Verizon a chance to showcase a variety of new mobile-based experiences that include co-viewing, AR replays and livestreamed games. The coronavirus pandemic has prevented the NFL and other sports leagues from allowing fans to see some games in person, making mobile-based experiences more significant in immersing fans with sports content. Those experiences can help to engage viewers with live sports and increase the likelihood that they see and later recall advertising from mobile marketers.
Immersive experiences are crucial in luring younger viewers to watch live sports. The percentage of people ages 13 to 37 who said they watch sports on live TV fell to 65% last year from 86% in 2016, as they shifted their consumption of non-live sports content to social media, a study by YPulse found. The researcher found that 70% of people in the age group agreed with the statement, "I don't need to watch sports games live to keep up with what's going on." The findings indicate that Verizon's media properties can give viewers another reason to watch live games by making them more collegial through video chat and more immersive with AR content.
With those features, Verizon also can help to engage the sub-segment of consumers who are sports fans and use their smartphones while watching games on another screen. About three quarters (78%) of Generation Z sports fans watch live games on TV while looking at their phone, compared with 56% of boomers, per a study by video management platform Imagen.
Verizon Media's rollout of mobile-based features is the latest sign that parent company Verizon's various multiyear partnerships with the NFL are producing tangible results. The telecommunications company last year signed an innovation partnership with the league that included the development of in-stadium mobile features for 5G smartphones, mobile games and video streaming. In 2017, Verizon and the NFL announced a five-year partnership to livestream NFL games on Yahoo and Yahoo Sports, lessening the league's dependence on broadcast outlets. The media rights and sponsorship deal was said to be valued at about $500 million a year, up from $250 million in a prior agreement between Verizon and NFL, Sports Business Daily reported.