NBC, Associated Press
NEW YORK — The television set won't be the only place to watch video of the New York Giants and the New England Patriots this Sunday. For the first time, U.S. football fans will be able to watch the Super Bowl live on a computer or on a phone.
You may be wondering whether anyone without super-strength eyesight would be able to follow the football on a tiny phone screen. And what about the ads? After all, many people tune in more for the commercials than for the game.
I got a chance to test the offering with a pair of playoff games and last weekend's all-star Pro Bowl. Although it's impossible to say what will happen Sunday, I have found the experience decent so far, but no substitute for the big screen.
The phone offering is made possible through a collaboration involving the National Football League, Comcast Corp.'s NBC and Verizon Wireless. The nation's largest wireless carrier had rights to carry NBC's Sunday night broadcasts live during the regular season, as well as some games from the NFL Network and ESPN. The post-season games broadcast by NBC are an extension of that package.
That means you'll need service through Verizon Wireless to watch on an iPhone or an Android phone (The game won't be available on the iPad). You'll also need Verizon's V Cast video service, which costs $3 a day or $10 a month on top of your regular phone bill. A generous data plan or a Wi-Fi connection will help you avoid additional charges.
If you don't have the right phone or wireless carrier, or if you have a super-cheap data plan with low caps, you can watch for free on a computer instead at NBCSports.com. You can interact with the game more that way, but you won't get the same commercials.
To get started on the phone, you need to install the NFL Mobile software. The app is free; it's the software's live video that requires V Cast. You can get the app on the phone through the Android Market or Apple's app store. Or you can go to http://www.verizonwireless.com/nfl and enter your cellphone number. A text message will be sent with a link to get your app. You can also call the NFL by hitting the star key twice and dialing 635. That will also get you a link via text.
The video is easy to find once you open the app.
You get the full NBC broadcast, including replays, announcers and on-screen graphics. You also get the halftime show and national commercials. NBC's peacock logo came up when my local NBC station was showing ads for local merchants such as car dealers and banks.
As for the football, I was surprised how well I was able to follow it. I wasn't able to track the ball for some of the passes and field goal kicks, but I was able to follow it on runs. Sure, the ball is small, but your eyes are much closer to the screen. So proportionally, it's somewhat comparable to what you'd get standing several feet away from the TV.
The video quality was adequate over a cellular connection. Some of the players looked more like video game characters than real people, reminding me of the early days of Internet video. Quality improved with a Wi-Fi connection because more data can be sent without worrying about congestion or data charges.
Video on the phone lagged the TV broadcast by about 30 seconds, so don't fall for any instant bets your TV-watching friends try to make with you. If others are watching in the next room, be prepared for cheers and jeers before you see the action.
Also, for the first half-hour, the app will ask you a few times whether you are really there. The video stops if you don't confirm your presence. I found it disruptive, though Verizon says it's to ensure that people don't inadvertently run up data charges.
And if you were able to snag tickets to the Super Bowl, don't expect to watch the game on the phone. Verizon will block the video in and around the stadium to avoid overrunning its network. Besides, if you made all that effort to be there in person, you should be watching the field, not your phone.
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