Once again, Verizon will offer free live streams of local and primetime NFL games through its Yahoo Sports mobile app. But there’s a twist for the 2020-2021 season: The app will offer built-in video chat so you can watch together with up to three friends.
As with the last two seasons, you won’t need to be a Verizon customer to watch the games for free. You will, however, need to be watching through a smartphone or tablet, as Verizon’s streaming rights don’t extend to computers, or connected TV devices. The video chat feature and some games will be unavailable on tablets as well. That’s a bit of a shame, as the Watch Together feature would be more enjoyable on larger screens. The free streams will also be available through the NFL app, NFL Fantasy app, individual NFL team apps, Yahoo Fantasy Sports, the AOL app, and—most strangely—Yahoo Mail, all with the same device restrictions.
In addition to co-watching, Verizon is engaging in some augmented reality gimmickry with a feature called “PlayAR,” which will provide 360-degree views for certain plays with player and ball tracking data overlaid on the screen.
The “Watch Together” concept has become a miniature craze within the streaming industry during the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon, Hulu, and Movies Anywhere have all launched co-watching features with text-based chat, while HBO has partnered with an outside company called Scener to launch both text and video chat. Scener also integrates with several other video services, including Netflix and Disney Plus, and some folks have figured out how to cobble together their own joint viewing sessions in Zoom.
Verizon, however, is the first company to bring native video chat to live streams for a major sporting event, which is arguably where people would be most interested in using that kind of feature.