The National Football League draft will stream live on three different apps starting 5 p.m. Thursday. Two of those apps will show every pick and be available to subscribers of any cellphone service.
Teams spend three days acquiring the rights to sign amateur players in the annual draft. Streaming the draft isn't new. But this year NFL Digital Media, based in Culver City, will air all seven draft rounds through a show called NFL Draft Live on the NFL Mobile app and the NFL Now app. It'll also be accessible through Xbox One, tablet apps and NFL.com.
Last year's draft drew 29 million visitors to NFL's mobile services, or more than double the year prior. Courtyard, McDonald's and New Era are among online sponsors.
For hard-core fans, NFL Draft Live could be handy during later stages of the draft on Saturday when ESPN and NFL Network talk about big storylines as the draft continues, rather than show each selection as it happens.
This year, for the first time, those Saturday picks will be announced locally by teams, from their decision-making "war-rooms" or from team-organized draft parties. Oakland's doing it from Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield; San Francisco from Levi's Stadium; and San Diego and St. Louis at their hometown practice facilities. In the past, an NFL official at draft headquarters stood in front of a podium making the announcements.
"When the draft gets fast and furious on Saturday, digital will be the only place to see video of every pick," Tom Brady, vice president of content at NFL Media Group, said by phone Thursday.
People who pay for ESPN through a cable or satellite subscription can use WatchESPN to follow the draft. Verizon Wireless subscribers have an additional option: They get the NFL Network's broadcast on the NFL Mobile app.
The NFL has made the draft more of an extravaganza in each of the last few years. This year's draft is in Chicago, the first time in 50 years it's been held outside of New York City. The Chicago experience includes a fan festival, also the first time the league has held some sort of secondary event, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The football games themselves? Those streams remain available only to Verizon Wireless subscribers.