NFL Taps Into Microsoft Teams to Let Fans Cheer With Players After Touch Downs
September 10, 2020 Topic: Technology Region: Americas Blog Brand: Coronavirus Tags: FootballNFLFansCoronavirusMicrosoftCOVID-19Virtual Fans

NFL Taps Into Microsoft Teams to Let Fans Cheer With Players After Touch Downs

A special selection of fans will get to virtually celebrate in real-time with their team.

Could you imagine giving Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes a virtual high-five after scoring a touchdown?

Thanks to Microsoft and its next-generation technology, you can now do that for real.

When the National Football League starts its season on Thursday night, Microsoft will also be given the opportunity to flaunt its new version of its fan-cheering sections via its Teams video-chat app.

The company has described the NFL version of the cheering section “as virtual mirrors”—which are LED screens that will be shown in both end zones during the season’s games.

After a team scores, the players have the option of gathering around the screen to see themselves celebrating with fans who are not physically at the game.

The video feeds of fans appearing in windows around a certain player who scores a touchdown will also be part of TV broadcasts.

In a recent blog post, Jeff Teper, Microsoft’s corporate vice president in charge of Teams, wrote that the cheering screens—called Fan Mosaics—will appear on big screens throughout stadiums for “key games,” most likely those without fans in attendance.

Microsoft will also provide audio from the feeds, so that the league can create “augmented crowd noise customized for each stadium.”

Thirty fans will be selected by each NFL team to join Fan Mosaics for each game the technology is used, which will also incorporate social media content from Twitter.

The tech giant also has a similar partnership with the National Basketball Association and controls its virtual cheering section. Anheuser-Busch, which sponsors the NBA’s cheering section, will take over the NFL’s version—calling it the “Bud Light Showtime cam.”

“Microsoft technology has been an integral part of NFL operations for several years,” Michelle McKenna, chief information officer of the NFL, said in a statement.

“And with the new challenges ahead of us this season, Microsoft will be instrumental in helping us innovate the best possible experiences for our players, coaches, officials, and fans, through activation like the Fan Mosaic and the Bud Light Showtime cam.”

For April’s NFL Draft, Microsoft also rolled out Teams to make the experience more immersive for the selected players and fans. The league had originally scheduled the 2020 draft in Las Vegas, but the event there was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Microsoft’s partnership with the NFL first began in 2013, when the league’s coaches and staff started using Microsoft’s Surface tablets on the sidelines.

Both the NFL and Microsoft have not commented on how much these deals are worth.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters