The National Football League has signed a wide-ranging, multi-year partnership with Microsoft which will have implications for both fans and teams.
Microsoft has acquired the rights to create 'exclusive interactive experiences' through its showpiece new products, Xbox One and Surface. Teams, meanwhile, will have access to various Microsoft solutions, including tablet devices to improve play-calling and allow for better on-field communications.
ESPN's Darren Rovell said the total value of the deal to the NFL was US$400 million over five years, although there was no official confirmation.
“We love the passion that players, coaches and fans bring to the NFL game; it's what makes the NFL game-day experience so unique,” said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive.
“We're excited to apply our passion for technology to the NFL experience, both on the sidelines through the innovative use of Microsoft Surface devices, and for fans through an enhanced NFL viewing experience on Xbox One.”
Microsoft originally joined forces with the NFL in November 2011, a move interpreted by many at the time as the start of a play to replace the outgoing Motorola as the league’s official headset supplier, but this deal marks a significant broadening of the partnership. Xbox remains the official game console of the league and will become the official interactive video entertainment console.
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Microsoft, meanwhile, becomes the NFL's official sideline technology sponsor. The company's Surface tablet product and its Windows operating system also gain official designations, a move that sees the NFL open up more visible on-field sponsor categories than ever before.
“From the use of instant replay to the yellow first-down line that has become an important element of the at-home television viewing experience, the NFL is committed to leveraging technology to improve our game for coaches, players and fans,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“We're thrilled to be teaming with a true innovator like Microsoft to shape the future of the NFL game experience, both on-field and in the living room.”
Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft's interactive entertainment business, added: “When we started working with Roger Goodell and the team at the NFL we knew that we could create great new experiences that fans would love.
“This partnership will redefine NFL experiences through exclusive and interactive content that you will find only on Xbox. For fans, the NFL on Xbox will provide the most complete way to enjoy live football by bringing the first fully-integrated fantasy football experience to the TV, exclusively through Xbox.”
Also on Tuesday, the NFL confirmed the Super Bowl venues in 2016 and 2017. Houston's Reliant Stadium will host the league's finale in 2016, with the 50th edition to be played at San Francisco's new Levi's Stadium, which is due to open next year. The winning cities won out over South Florida, which had centred its bid around Miami.
Top picture shows Don Mattrick (left), the president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Division, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Second picture shows Mattrick announcing his company's NFL partnership during an Xbox One reveal event on Tuesday.
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