Microsoft has just announced a broad partnership with the National Football League intended to make the Xbox One the definitive living room device for football fans. Dubbed NFL on Xbox, the initiative will take the simple act of watching football, and transform it into what the company is touting as a true interactive experience — leveraging Microsoft products like Skype and its SmartGlass companion apps. The broadcasts will also incorporate technology worn by NFL players themselves. Microsoft is also introducing its own take on fantasy football, which viewers can access simultaneously while watching live games using the Xbox One's new Snap feature.
As part of the partnership, Microsoft has the exclusive right to create interactive NFL content not just for the Xbox One but products like the Surface as well. "When we started working with Roger Goodell and the team at the NFL we knew that we could create great new experiences that fans would love," Microsoft's president of Interactive Entertainment Business, Don Mattrick, said in a statement. "For fans, the NFL on Xbox will provide the most complete way to enjoy live football by bringing the first fully-integrated fantasy football experience to the TV, exclusively through Xbox."
The deal will also put other Microsoft products in the hands of NFL teams. Coaches and players will have access to Surface tablets to aid in play calling and other in-game needs, an area that has been dominated by the iPad up until this point. Microsoft will be named "The Official Sideline Technology Sponsor of the NFL," with the Surface called out as "the official tablet" of the league. Surface and Microsoft branding will also be featured in sidelines during NFL games; all told, the arrangement will no doubt give Microsoft's struggling tablet family some much-needed additional visibility.
While the Xbox has been known primarily as a gaming platform, Microsoft has been positioning the console as an all-in-one entertainment solution for some time, with live sports playing an important role. The Xbox 360's ESPN app is currently able to stream all of that network's programming — assuming users have a matching cable or satellite subscription, of course — and when showing off the ESPN SmartGlass integration last year the company flatly stated that "We think the best sports experience is on the Xbox." The partnership with the NFL takes things that much further, though it will be US-only at launch.