Watching the NFL with the help of the Xbox One (and Windows 10)

NFL on Windows app
Credit: Microsoft

Last night the 2015 NFL season kicked off and I decided to watch the game and put the NFL app on the Xbox One through its paces. Here's how that went down, but I do want to state that I never bothered using the app last year so not everything I talk about is new this year.

To get started I 'snapped' the NFL app, leaving the game playing in the main window. This let me navigate to a screen that gave me either real time stats on the game (number of first downs for each time, total yards gained...that kind of thing) or a play-by-play description of what was happened (presumably intended to be used if you're not actually watching the game).

The stats are the same stats the TV broadcast will offer from time to time, but by using the app you can check them out whenever curiosity strikes. I didn't feel the need to have these on-screen all the time and tapping the B button on the Xbox Controller closed the snapped window and left the game playing full-screen. To bring it back up I'd double tap the Xbox button on the controller then hit the right button on the d-pad to open it back up.

So that was kind of interesting but what I was really interested in were the Next Gen Replays that were promised. Turns out you can't view this in the snapped window; if you open them up the NFL app goes full screen. Luckily an NFL game has ample commercial breaks and that's when I'd go to check out the highlights.

With only one game airing there weren't a lot of replays to watch and the ones there were I'd already seen, but it was still nice to be able to go and re-watch a great play while ads were running on TV. However, there are also ads in the Next Gen Replay from time to time, which was a little annoying.

When you open a Next Gen Replay you first get a standard video of the play, just like you'd see in a replay during the game. You can fast forward and rewind this to watch key moments over and over, and you can Favorite and Share clips, though it's not clear what Favoriting them actually accomplishes.

Tapping the Back button shrinks the video window and opens an animated window showing the players as icons with their positions indicated. To the right of this is a list of players and you can highlight different players to see where they are on the field as well as how fast and how far they ran. The play will loop and show different 'camera' angles of the animated view.

Next Gen Replay is one of those pretty neat tools that honestly I probably won't use very often, though I do look forward to watching video highlights of other games during commercial breaks on Sundays.

Overall I do think the NFL app enriches the game watching experience and I'm glad it's available. All that said, somewhere around halftime I switched over to the NFL on Windows app (which is a Windows 10 app) on my Surface tablet. There I could watch the same replays that are offered on the Xbox One app without fiddling with the Xbox One controller. In fact the experience is a little better on the Windows 10 app since you can choose the camera angle rather than letting the replay cycle between them. On the other hand you do give up the Favorite and Share features that the Xbox One app offers.

And just as an aside, as of yesterday the Xbox One app finally supports NFL Game Pass, the $100/year service that lets you watch every game from this season and the past few seasons on demand (but not live). While I know a lot of football fans find it a curious service I actually like it. I watched a "Condensed Game" that cuts out all the dead time between plays. It takes about half an hour to watch a game that way. If you're trying to follow more than 3 or 4 teams I'd say you need something like this unless you have tons of free time to spend watching football games. Yes, you loose the immediacy of watching live but it's a nice way to catch up on the games you can't see on TV.

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