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If you’re a casual football fan like me — meaning you follow one team, you don’t have a fantasy league, and you don’t have any, ahem, money riding on the games — then the NFL’s RedZone football channel and Verizon (s VZ) FiOS’s NFL RedZone widget will likely be overkill. But if you’re a die-hard football fanatic or one of the millions (and millions) of fantasy football players, the combination of these two services will likely have you in pigskin heaven.
NFL RedZone is a new subscription-only channel (available in HD and SD) that’s produced by the NFL Network. It “takes viewers around the league every Sunday afternoon…for live coverage of critical plays when any team is inside its opponent’s 20-yard line,” Verizon says. If you ask my husband, it means it tells you everything you need to know about your fantasy team: You jump from game to game whenever a team is about to score. You can see the key plays that affect all of your fantasy players without having to change the channel.
If you ask me, it means you never really get into a game: Just when you figure out what’s going on — and who’s playing who — you’re onto the next game. Sometimes it’s because the team scores, but sometimes it’s because someone called a timeout. Or the play fizzled out. Or maybe just because something more exciting is happening elsewhere; whatever the reason, the NFL RedZone announcer comes on and tells you that you’re going to another game. And off you go, to a new game, new teams, and a new set of announcers.
I can see why NFL RedZone would appeal to fantasy football players — and it certainly makes sense for the NFL and TV providers to jump on that market. After all, the more than 27.2 million Americans who participate in some sort of fantasy sport spend $800 million on it.
More my speed is the NFL RedZone widget from Verizon FiOS. It’s free to all FiOS customers, and it lets you process information at your own speed. You access it just like you do any of Verizon’s other widgets (which include news headlines, weather, Facebook, Twitter, and more): You press the widgets button on your remote. The widget displays its information on the right side of your screen, while the channel you’re watching (it can be any channel) displays in a small window on the left. With all the info displayed, though, the picture is very small. I tested the widget on a 32-inch TV and found the picture too small to watch regularly — especially when I was trying to watch a football game. I had to squint to see the ball.
The widget can be slow to launch, but you can minimize it with the push of a button; this allows you to access it easily, without having to relaunch it. But when the widget is active — even when it’s minimized — you can’t change the channel or access most of your cable box features, including the Guide and DVR.
But the information displayed by the widget is easy to read; it’s well-organized and easy to browse with your FiOS remote. You can browse the scores of all current games, and the scoreboard is refreshed regularly. You also can check out league standings, browse player news and NFL headlines, and search through team profiles. Verizon’s widget doesn’t go quite as far as the one offered by Rallycast (through Yahoo’s widget platform, which is, right now, available on some connected Samsung TVs). Rallycast’s widget, which costs $59.95 for the season, lets you view information about your own fantasy team, and even goes so far as allowing you to make substitutions on screen.
Verizon’s widget does have some interactivity of its own, though. If you’re a subscriber of the NFL RedZone channel, you can set it to alert you whenever a team is approaching the red zone. Verizon uses the term red zone as it is used in football — meaning inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, but, presumably, it also means the team is approaching the channel, as well. The alert will let you know when to change the channel so you can see the action as it happens. I couldn’t test this feature, as it’s only available to subscribers (I tested it during a free preview), but it seems to be the most useful way of using the NFL RedZone channel. It allows you to change the channel to see the action you want to see, rather than having multiple games thrown at you.
While the NFL RedZone channel proved to be a little too much football for me, I do like Verizon’s NFL widget. It’s a widget I actually find useful, and the way it works in combination with the NFL RedZone channel is pretty darn cool.