Verizon Media, along with subsidiary media entity Yahoo Sports, is debuting for the upcoming National Football League season a new co-watching experience designed to aid communal viewing of games during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The new Watch Together, a feature available on the Yahoo Sports app, will allow users to invite up to three others to watch live local and primetime NFL games on their phones in a synchronized livestream with video chat functionality.
The feature, set to debut with the September 10 start of the NFL season with a primetime matchup between the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans, is aimed at boosting group consumption of games currently impaired by the public health crisis.
Most NFL teams are beginning the 2020 season without any in-person attendance due to the pandemic, and the ability of groups to gather for games in homes, bars, and restaurants is also heavily constricted in many local US markets.
The NFL is the first launch partner for Verizon’s Watch Together technology, which essentially merges the live streaming with video conferencing offerings that have soared in prominence over the last six months to create a blended and shared experience.
“Watch Together is a result of Verizon Media and the NFL’s innovative spirit to deliver next-gen experiences that create connection and community,” said Guru Gowrappan, Verizon Media chief executive. “Leveraging Verizon Media’s ecosystem, technology, and streaming capabilities, we have the unique ability to create powerful and immersive entertainment experiences of the future like no other.”
The new service adds to Yahoo Sports’ existing free live streaming of in-market and nationally broadcast NFL games.
Yahoo Sports, meanwhile, will also offer a new game center experience with its new Yahoo Sports PlayAR. The augmented reality offering will provide graphical replays of key plays from NFL games in near-realtime, powered in part by the league’s Next Gen Stats proprietary tracking data. That feature will debut September 13, the first full Sunday of NFL game action.