AFN Now app will livestream NFL championship games, Super Bowl
Stars and Stripes January 23, 2023
Last updated Jan. 27, 2023, 3:49 a.m. U.S. Eastern Time
The American Forces Network’s new video on demand app will livestream the AFC and NFC Championship games on Sunday and the Super Bowl on Feb. 12, network officials said Thursday.
The network’s agreement with the NFL allows service members and other eligible viewers to watch the games on multiple platforms with the app, which launched worldwide a little over two months ago.
“The ability of AFN Now to livestream the most popular sports events ensures our military sports fans can catch the action on their schedules,” Hal Pittman, director of the Defense Media Activity, said in a statement Thursday. “This is a big win for our military and families serving overseas.”
The network successfully tested its live function last weekend, AFN spokesman John Clearwater said Monday.
Feedback from AFN Now audiences surprised to find the games live reported “good video and clean audio” during the streaming, he said.
“Based on the success of this weekend’s testing, live streaming of the Championship games on AFN Now appears feasible and likely,” Clearwater said earlier in the week.
The weekend’s games also were transmitted as video on demand, as were the wild card games. The format allows viewers to watch prerecorded events.
The first NFL postseason games on wild card weekend, Jan. 14-16, were up about 10 to 13 hours after they aired on AFN television, said Kimberly Antos, the network’s chief of digital media and AFN Now.
Most feedback so far on the new app has been from people wanting to watch those sports live, Antos said.
The NFL playoffs and the Australian Open tennis tournament debuted on AFN Now earlier this month, shortly after AFN acquired the digital rights for the programming, executives told Stars and Stripes.
That includes rights to air the Super Bowl on the app, said Mike Drumheller, chief of the AFN broadcast center in Riverside, Calif.
The wild card games were still on the app as of early Monday afternoon but likely won’t be for long. The games disappear after seven days as part of AFN’s rights agreement, Antos said.
The three out of four divisional playoff games this past weekend appeared on the app Monday afternoon Central European Time.
Viewers still can catch NFL playoff action live on AFN television.
The first major hurdle in putting professional sports up on the app was acquiring the digital rights to the games, a process that for the NFL postseason games went down to the wire and involved negotiations across different regions and time zones, Drumheller said.
“We had the rights agreement in hand on Friday and we were up on video on demand on Saturday,” he said of wild card weekend.
As of now, the remaining playoff games are available as video on demand hours after the end of each game, AFN officials said.
Since AFN Now launched in early November following a trial run in the Pacific, the app has reached close to 10,000 registered users, Antos said.
In the last two weeks, when the first NFL games were uploaded as video-on-demand, the average number of new registered users per week has nearly doubled, Clearwater said Thursday.
Data also shows that the NFL postseason games are among the six most streamed on demand programs available on the app, he said.
“We fully expect the registration numbers to continue to improve as more and more people discover AFN Now and everything the video streaming platform has to offer,” Clearwater said.
AFN Now is free to download from the Apple and Google app stores. It’s compatible with most devices and in-home media, including Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire.
Next up for digital sports is likely to be major league baseball, with more to follow.
“We are working through the calendar year, through those marquee events … to expand and innovate the way that we bring the content to troops where they are,” said Zoe Stagg, AFN’s chief of television programming.