CBS Sports’ New NFL iPad App Strikes Balance for Fantasy Players, Football Fans

The NFL season is barely three weeks old, but fantasy-football owners and NFL junkies are already in full swing, searching for the latest player and team updates each Sunday. To cater to these hardcore fans, CBS Sports launched its first NFL-based app for Apple iPad. The CBS Sports Pro Football App, the most downloaded free iPad app on the iTunes store during the season’s opening weekend, offers in-depth fantasy content as well as NFL-game coverage and breaking news.

“We have an amazing companion experience here,” says Rob Gelick, SVP/GM of CBS Mobile. “It would be hard to find a lineup that is as rich in terms of game coverage as well as fantasy coverage. I think that’s where our secret sauce lies: finding the right balance between someone who is just a pro-football fan as well as someone who is an avid fantasy player. We need to deliver a solution that appeals to both those personalities.”

The app offers live NFL scores and standings, play-by-play, breaking news, and expert fantasy-football analysis from CBSSports.com. In addition, the app’s streaming-video content includes game previews, recaps, interviews, and NFL RapidReports, which provide up-to-the-minute reports and late-breaking news from on-site reporters for all 32 NFL teams.

Same Video, Different Platform
The HTML5-based app streams video using Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming protocol, which uses H.264 encoding and adaptive-bitrate streaming to allow users to optimum video quality based on available bandwidth. In terms of content, CBS Mobile produces some video in-house specifically for the mobile side and also pulls from CBSSports.com’s vast array of NFL content.

“The video content includes basically anything that a football fan needs or wants to know about what is happening in the world of the NFL today,” says Jon Mantell, VP of mobile video and TV for CBS . “We’re trying to guide the fantasy player and capture all the relevant information for football fans.”

Gelick adds that the mobile side’s access to CBS Sports content is integral to the quality of the platform. “We have a pretty good overlap with [CBS Sports’ content rights]. There is a lot of consistency between what we have up online and what we have on mobile. Sometimes, we will produce additional video and editorial exclusively for mobile. But we also have to be selective about what the mobile consumer is actually interested in seeing.”

Using the iPad Real Estate
CBS Sports’ NFL app is also available for the iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry, but the iPad version takes full advantage of the devices large screen size and extensive touchscreen user interface.

“The user interface for the iPad app was completely redesigned to take advantage of the screen real estate and bring all the information up to the top level,” says Mantell. “The iPad’s display and touchscreen create a new point of interaction for us, not only for general football fans but for fantasy users as well. It really gave us a richer palette to play with.”

Catering to the Fantasy Crowd
The app also offers CBSSports.com fantasy-football players full access to their leagues and teams. Users can check scores, set lineups, add or drop players, and get “My Player” updates, as well as watch exclusive commentary and video advice from CBSSports.com fantasy analysts.

“The stuff that CBSSports.com Fantasy News produces tends to be extremely popular on mobile,” says Gelick. “Fantasy info is that kind of information that you pretty much need to have in order to be informed and up to date.

The iPad is increasingly becoming a secondary living-room device that allows users to watch games live on television while they monitor their fantasy team via the iPad, a trend CBS Mobile took into account when constructing the new app.

“Football lends itself so well to both mobile and the iPad experience,” says Mantell. “We really design the iPad app to bring fantasy players sitting in front of the TV everything that they need to have while they’re watching the actual games.”

It’s Always Summer With July Systems
The CBS Sports Pro Football iPad app was developed in conjunction with Los Angeles-based mobile-media provider July Systems. CBS Mobile conceptualized the app in-house, designing the user experience and basic infrastructure.

“In this case, July Systems actually coded the iPad application on our behalf,” says Gelick. “They put they put the app to spec for us and helped us deploy it to markup. In the end, we were very happy with the work they did for us.”