**As published in digiday:DAILY** Publisher: Verizon Wireless Price: Free Platform: Android Advertising: None Functionality: B Fun Factor: A Overall: A- Ending a multi-year exclusive deal with Sprint Nextel Corp., Verizon Wireless scooped up a major win earlier this year when it landed a deal with the National Football League to exclusively carry the brand on mobile for the next four years. Although the regular season is still four long months away from kickoff, the nation’s largest carrier took advantage of the off-season hype by launching its marquee NFL Mobile app less just in time for the 2010 NFL Draft, which ran from April 22-24. The carrier admits the app is still in the growing phase, but most of the must-have features for any NFL fan – news and information, 2010 season schedules, player profiles, draft prospects, team updates, and analysis – are already in play. What really sweetens the pot though, particularly for millions of cable TV subscribers still locked out of access to NFL Network, is a live 24/7 stream of the all-things-football channel.
Once the season gets underway, Verizon plans to add live streams of NBC’s Sunday Night Football and NFL RedZone, a popular channel from NFL Network that rapidly rotates through games to air live coverage of plays and touchdowns from within the 20-yard line. That update alone, which will bring the premium channel to mobile for the first time, will guarantee countless hours of use from millions of NFL fans. Finally, NFL Mobile will provide live radio broadcasts of every regular season and playoff game, postgame highlights and other extensions like ringtones, graphics and team alerts. Still, there’s plenty for NFL fans to get excited about now. It’s never too early to catch the NFL fever and Verizon Wireless doesn’t disappoint with its early-to-market offering. As you’ll find with most NFL-related coverage today, the recent draft results take main stage on the app. Featured prospects are listed in ranking order and users can dig into more analysis and background on each of the soon-to-be rookies with ease. A menu of draft-related videos provides more analysis on teams’ takeaways from this year’s draft and more in-depth looks at divisional shakeups that are expected to materialize this season as a result of the draft. Beyond the draft aftermath, a series of news headlines are refreshed regularly to provide fans with an up-to-date look at the latest twists and turns from inside the league. As expected, you don’t have to look far to find some true made-for-TV drama. I do hope Verizon Wireless makes one slight improvement in this area and provides access to all of the news articles from within the app, rather than sending users to the browser as it does now. Mostly though, for an NFL fan deprived of access to NFL Network at home, the biggest selling point of the app right now is the unadulterated access to the channel’s live stream. Making things even better when I checked the app was the NFL classic game that was running at the time: San Francisco 49ers vs. New York Jets from way back on Sept. 6, 1998. Whether or not that portends the 49ers all-but-certain return to glory this season I don’t know, but the great picture quality and look back on a great game that ended in overtime with a 49ers victory did more than enough to spark my interest and feed my daily dose of the NFL. If you’re already mapping out plans for this year’s upcoming season and can’t wait for more NFL mania like me, you might want to give this free app a try. Who knows – you too just might find your team making a drive for victory in one of its classic games of yesteryear.