Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Testing out Verizon's online bells and whistles during NFL Network games
NEW YORK -- For any football fan who has ever yelled at the
TV about a poorly timed switch to a different camera angle,
Verizon's new service is tantalizing.
Customers who subscribe to television and high-speed Internet
services from the company receive free access to bonus online
content during games that air on the NFL Network. Along with other
bells and whistles, they can choose among three camera angles on
their computer in addition to the main TV feed: the sideline cam,
the end zone cam, and the cable cam hovering above the field.
With the next NFL Network game kicking off Thursday night, is
the Game Extra service worth checking out for the 1.5 million or so
customers who have access to it?
Testing the service during last week's Packers-Cowboys game
suggested that its most practical functions may be some of its more
The ability to switch camera angles proved less useful than it
sounds. While the sideline cam is, of course, located on the
sideline, it does not always follow the action from the same angle.
This is the actual camera used by the NFL Network, so sometimes the
operator is zooming in on a particular player or the huddle or a
coach on the bench to get a certain shot.
Indeed, the most entertaining part of the alternate camera
angles was often the voyeuristic sense of watching close-ups of
players preparing to line up or talking between snaps, images
rarely seen during telecasts.
The cable cam consistently offered the most interesting angles,
including a great close-up during a commercial of medical staff
examining Packers quarterback Brett Favre after he injured his arm
in the second quarter.
Yes, the camera angles are available during commercial breaks.
But when the action is going on, it takes a few seconds to load the
new view every time you switch camera angles, so it's not possible
to seamlessly flip from the TV feed to the end zone cam mid-play.
A "Quad View" showing the TV feed and the three alternate
angles at the same time is available, but the images were fuzzy.
The most useful part of this service may be the fact that it's
portable. Customers can log on to it from any computer with a
high-speed connection, even one that doesn't use Verizon.
So if fans are out of town the night of a game and the nearest
TV doesn't carry the NFL Network, they can still watch the contest.
The feed -- multiple camera angles and all -- can even be viewed
on a television set if the computer is hooked up to it with the
proper kind of cable. But don't expect the image to be as clear as
a regular broadcast of the game in standard definition, let alone
HDTV. As with any video viewed online, the feed proved to be choppy
Verizon customers already receive the NFL Network as part of
their package for television service.
The Web page with the multiple camera angles also includes live
stats, a drive chart and the ability to chat with other fans. Video
highlight packages are posted throughout the game.
Midway through the second quarter of last Thursday's game, a
clip of Favre's first-quarter interception was already available.
By halftime, a compilation of key first-quarter plays was up. For a
fan with a DVR, though, the highlights might not be that big of a
Watching the game on TV while checking out the alternate camera
angles online would be tough because the Internet feed is several
seconds behind the television broadcast.