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NFL launches Game Pass service to continue digital drive

American football league the NFL has launched a new subscription streaming service designed as the latest accompaniment to the sport’s traditional television coverage.

Priced at $99 (€89) for an annual subscription, NFL Game Pass will allow fans to watch regular-season games broadcast on television as soon as they're over. The app will also provide access to live pre-season games, along with live audio commentary of regular-season fixtures.

The app will include different camera angles and other exclusive content not available on traditional linear television.

“This is a real game-changing year,” NFL chief digital officer Perkins Miller told US broadcaster CNBC.

“You've seen so much growth in these pure-play native digital apps like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime. As we looked at what we could do with our premium content, the pre-season games, our games on demand, we said if we could unify that into one package and make it easy for our fans, I think we'd be aligning ourselves with the trajectory of online video consumption for premium content providers.”

The Game Pass service is the latest digital media initiative the NFL and its commercial partners have embarked on in recent months. The CBS Sports division of US network CBS this month said it would enhance its live streaming offering for the NFL, offering regular-season games from the league for the first time this season.

In total, CBS Sports will provide free live streaming in 2015-16 of two regular-season games, four play-off games and Super Bowl 50 from the Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Last month, satellite-television provider DirecTV significantly extended the reach of its Sunday Ticket package of programming for the NFL by making its live streaming service more widely available.

The new offering for NFLSundayTicket.tv is designed to cater for consumers who are unable to install a satellite dish at their homes. The exclusive, live streaming version of the NFL Sunday Ticket subscription service will be available to consumers living in an apartment, condominium or townhome who are not now receiving DirecTV service. NFLSundayTicket.tv is also being made available to consumers who were not able to install a DirecTV dish at their home due to an obstruction or other restriction.

In August, the NFL also signed a new multi-year partnership with social networking service Twitter which will deliver daily uniquely packaged official NFL video and other types of content to fans on a year-round basis.

Finally, internet company Yahoo was in June selected by the NFL to deliver the first ever live stream of a regular-season game for free to viewers worldwide. Yahoo will provide live coverage of the NFL International Series game in London between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, October 25.

Commenting on the developments, Miller said: “The NFL is definitely trying to hedge against change the best we can. I use the word carefully because I really think of it more as we're being responsive, because we're trying to come at it from a fan-first point of view.

“We know our fans are watching broadcast TV; we know they're touching their mobile phone and want and expect to get content there. We know there's an emergence of connected TV applications and that we need to be directly accountable to our fans to deliver content there.”

The 2015 NFL regular season launches today (Thursday) as the New England Patriots take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.