Microsoft strikes deals with NFL and ESPN to try to make the Xbox One your sports-viewing companion
When you think of the Xbox, you probably picture things like Halo, Fable, and Call of Duty. But with the upcoming Xbox One, Microsoft is trying to expand beyond just gaming, and become your go-to living room companion. And what's a bigger mainstay of weekend couch-surfing than sports? Gizmag recently sat down with Microsoft to chat about some deals the company inked to help bring your home sports entertainment into the 21st century.
In both this meeting and a previous one with Microsoft, we've seen a common theme emerging: the company is taking the convergence of live games with scores, stats, and other data very seriously. Though many fans prefer to just watch a telecast without bothering with things like data-tracking and Fantasy Leagues, we think those who do like a lot of information mixed with the broadcast will be pretty excited about some of the things the Xbox One has in store.
For starters, the Xbox One team has a lot of integration lined up with the NFL and ESPN (both services will be launching on the Xbox One in November). The NFL deal merges live TV with content from NFL.com, NFL Network and NFL RedZone. The ESPN one does the same with ESPN.com, along with personalized scores and favorite teams.
We think that's one of the biggest keys with all of this: you're no longer only tuning into the same national broadcast everyone else sees. You are still doing that, of course, but you're also surrounding that with a personalized sports entertainment experience. And much of this revolves around the Xbox One's side-by-side multitasking.
Snap Mode is Microsoft's marketing term for the new console's multitasking, but we think it's some pretty appropriate branding. The demo we watched showed scores from around the league, highlights from other games, info for your favorite team and players, and Fantasy League tracking snapped to the right side of the screen. All the while, the game continues displayed on the majority of the viewing area.
When you're completely focused on the game, go full-screen, and watch your sports as you always have. But when you want to split your focus between live action and other NFL-related data, activate that sidebar (via the Xbox controller or Kinect voice or gesture) and experience the 21st century digital version of the game.
Of course networks like ESPN already give you some of this functionality, in the form of the scrolling sports ticker. But Snap Mode is personalized, and much more in-depth. You get the info you care about, from the teams and players you care about, and you leave everything else out. It also doesn't hurt that Snap Mode gives you a much larger landscape to view your personalized data than those little tickers ever could. It's essentially a second screen, a la SmartGlass, snapped in place right alongside the main screen.
You can also use Snap Mode to keep an eye on the big game while you're using the Xbox One for its primary purpose: gaming. Again, a tap on the controller, a wave of the hand, or an utterance of the right phrase will snap your scores, stats, or Fantasy tracking right alongside that climactic level in Ryse: Son of Rome.
Smartphones and tablets have already made this kind of confluence of information part of our TV viewing habits. But the Xbox One puts it all in one place, and it lets you use voice and gesture control to activate it.
Though Microsoft doesn't have any other deals to announce right now, we got the sense that the NFL and ESPN integration is just the beginning. In other words, we don't imagine that dedicated NBA, MLB, football ("soccer," if you're American), NHL, and US college sports fans will be left in the dark forever.