Media NFL Two Circles

As NFL Game Pass relaunches in Europe, here's how it will break sports viewing constraints


By John McCarthy | Media editor

September 6, 2017 | 5 min read

The NFL’s video subscription service Game Pass has relaunched in Europe in an unconventional joint venture between Bruin Sports Capital, its sports broadcast entity Deltatre and ad network WPP. To bridge these entities a new company called OverTier has been formed to deliver what it perceives to be the future of sports TV.

NFL Gamepass

NFL Gamepass relaunches in Europe

The Drum touched down with Sam Jones, chief executive of OverTier, to learn how the platform will utilise real-time data integration, consumer feedback and agency-delivered insight to deliver a premium National Football League experience in Europe.

The collaboration represents the NFL’s particular hunger for “world class expertise in technology, marketing and business growth and development,” said Jones. Tapping into WPP's sports agency Two Circles, has provided OverTier a “base intelligence and ability to get close to fans, help understand their behavior and open up media buying power and real insight."

Unto this, WPP surveyed 5,000 existing Game Pass subscribers to help detect what is missing from the service, data that was collated with emerging consumer trends to help shape the product. Almost 40 features have been integrated to the service as a result of the efforts to have a conversation with audiences. Portability and ease of access were the leading concerns.

Sports viewing: break out of the constraints

“Fans are looking to break out of the constraints of the current way of viewing sports, they want to be more portable and in control and want to enrich the live viewing experiences,” said Jones.

As such the service is optimised for use across all the usual leading devices, in addition to the likes of Apple TV and the Xbox One. As an added boon, each account can be used across multiple devices at once to create a second screen on mobile or even a sports data centre where all the games are simultaneously broadcast.

This Game Pass is a foundation to the future of TV, said Jones. “Our ambition is to change the way people watch sport online and how they experience it, we are in the early days of it, this lays down the foundation for the next generation of sports viewing.”

From an existential standpoint, the European unit of Game Pass has to be highly accommodating on the video on demand front due to the inherent timezone difference between the continents; as such weekday fixtures will, as live, go out at about half past one in the morning in the UK (and later as we venture further west). To combat this, the product had to have as little friction as possible to those jumping into the action at a later date.

In addition to be able to access games live and on-demand, the service boasts a 24-hour news broadcast show, NFL Red Zone, access to the best touchdowns and plays that surrounds the live experience, archives from previous seasons and content from films and associated partners, creating a formidable library that could keep any fan engaged between matches.

Hunger for data from sports fans

But one of the most alluring offerings from Game Pass is its understanding that sports fans are hungry for data. As Jones puts it, “[The NFL] is a data rich sport, one of moments and highlights, and for really avid fans there are statistics. Deltatre has been putting a lot of work in the last few months making the most of all this data, the NFL has been really innovative we’ve ingested their meta data and synchronised it with the livestream.”

In reality, this means that users can access related statistics from any one point in the game during the course of their viewing as they are being generated and displayed in real-time in tandem with the broadcast. “For the first time you have a data engine working with the visual engine. That’s in there from day one, imagine what we can do with that technology in the coming days and month.”

The NFL Game Pass is a premium product, concludes Jones. As such in the UK it costs £84.99 for the lower tier essential package. Will its extra offerings attract linear TV viewers and pirates in tandem?

As the traditional TV model fragments across devices, major rights holders are looking to get their OTT services up and running with an eye that they could one day be their major audience and revenue containers. While Netflix and Amazon make a lot of noise in the video space, shipping directly to consumers, Disney has been looking on with envy and as such has announced its own subscription services in ESPN and its Disney offerings.

Further to that, the WWE Network and UFC Fight Pass have shown that fans of select sports are willing to fork out for a specialised service if the content is of high enough quality.

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