Just in time for the preseason, the National Football League on Wednesday officially launched its newest offering -- a video service called NFL Now.
The digital network, first introduced in January, allows fans to watch personalized, on-demand videos on their desktops, iOS and Android mobile devices, and streaming services such as Roku and Xbox. A person familiar with the service told CNET that Apple TV is expected to become a partner in the coming weeks.
The offering is the NFL's latest effort to provide more league information and videos over the Internet, as it seeks to join in on the growing popularity of on-demand streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.
"This is really a response to the way our fans are behaving today," Perkins Miller, the NFL's chief digital officer, said in an interview.
NFL Now, which is free, will offer video highlights of games, press conferences, and videos produced by NFL Films, the 32 NFL teams, NFL.com and the NFL Network cable channel. The network will start with more than 350 hours of historical team highlights and about 30 hours of Super Bowl highlights from 1967 to 2009. Also, Miller said two full-time studios were created in Los Angeles to produce daily original shows and features for NFL Now, and a lot more content will be added after the preseason and regular season start. Users can register once -- providing the teams, players and fantasy information they want to follow -- and then access their accounts using their different devices.
A premium version, NFL Now Plus, is available for $1.99 a month in the US (international rates vary by region). It provides near-instant in-game highlights and NFL Films' entire vault of historical footage, shows and documentaries. Parts of the NFL Films library are already available on cable services including HBO and the NFL Network, but NFL Now's premium service brings the whole catalog on demand and in one place.
NFL Now doesn't offer live games, since Miller said the thrust of the service is to complement the live big-screen experience, not replace it. That point displays the balance the league has to consider between offering more digital content to viewers and ensuring that its lucrative live NFL broadcasts stay a strong draw for audiences. Sports -- the NFL and Olympics, in particular -- are among the few kinds of programming that still draw huge audiences to live TV, as viewers instead have been migrating toward recorded and streaming video content.
The service joins a handful of other digital offerings already provided by the NFL, including NFL.com and NFL Mobile, an app with news, game updates, highlights, real-time scores and stories. Subscribers of Verizon Wireless' More Everything Plan are able to view some live games using NFL Mobile.