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Amazon Prime Video lands exclusive NFL broadcast rights
by Paul Hill
Amazon Prime Video has made history today by becoming the first digital streaming service to get exclusive national broadcasting rights to several NFL programs. The pair have signed a ten-year deal which is set to begin in 2023 and will allow Amazon to exclusively broadcast 15 Thursday Night Football games and one pre-season game per year on Prime Video in the U.S.
Commenting on the deal, Mike Hopkins, SVP of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said:
For its part, the NFL said that it was “thrilled” to have signed the agreement with Amazon because it will help get the games out to more fans on more platforms that support Amazon Prime Video.
As part of the deal, Prime Video will provide viewers with pre-game, half-time, and post-game shows as well as interactive features such as X-Ray and Next Gen Stats. Additionally, Amazon is allowed to show a weekly slate of original NFL programming and has access to in-game highlights to all NFL games.
For those without access to Prime Video, NFL has said it will continue to broadcast games on television in the participating teams’ home markets.
BioWare cancels Anthem rework to focus on Mass Effect and Dragon Age
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
The multiplayer action RPG Anthem had been undergoing a major redesign behind closed doors at BioWare since early last year, with the studio going back to the drawing board to "reinvent the core gameplay loop" following the poor reception to its latest IP. However, all plans for this overhauled version have now been canceled.
Today, BioWare Austin head Christian Dailey revealed in a blog post that the studio had made the "difficult decision" to stop the development of the redesign project - dubbed Anthem NEXT. "While we continue to make progress against all our game projects at BioWare, working from home during the pandemic has had an impact on our productivity and not everything we had planned as a studio before COVID-19 can be accomplished without putting undue stress on our teams," explained Dailey.
While Anthem's journey has come to an end, the famed RPG studio is currently working on fresh entries for its Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises as well as a Mass Effect trilogy remaster as new projects. "Game development is hard," added Dailey. "Decisions like these are not easy. Moving forward, we need to laser focus our efforts as a studio and strengthen the next Dragon Age, and Mass Effect titles while continuing to provide quality updates to Star Wars: The Old Republic."
Anthem will still remain playable online in its current state for the time being, though as explained, no more updates will arrive for the troubled title. The studio did not say if there's a planned date for a future server shutdown.
BioWare loses its general manager and Dragon Age executive producer
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
BioWare today announced that two major pillars of its development teams are leaving the company, with studio veterans Casey Hudson and Mark Darrah exiting. Their latest positions had Hudson serving as the BioWare general manager while Darrah was the Dragon Age executive producer, both touts over two decades of experience at the company. No changes are being made to the projects in development at the studio.
"It’s not an easy decision to make, and big changes like this always come with a certain degree of sadness," said Casey Hudson in a farewell blog post. "I will miss being able to work every day with our inspiring developers on the biggest and most exciting projects I can imagine. But I also know that this is a good time for a change, for both myself and BioWare."
A separate blog post from Mark Darrah added the following:
The BioWare Austin studio director Christian Dailey will be taking over the duties of Darrah at being the Dragon Age executive producer. Meanwhile. the senior director of development operations Gary McKay will serve as the BioWare interim general manager while a new soul is being searched for the position.
BioWare is currently developing the next Dragon Age game, a new Mass Effect entry, remasters of the original Mass Effect trilogy, as well as an Anthem reboot. The studio saw two high-level departures last year also, with Anthem Lead Producer Ben Irving and the Dragon Age Lead Producer Fernando Melo exiting BioWare.
By Jay Bonggolto
NFL will virtually bring fans into stadiums via Microsoft Teams
by Jay Bonggolto
Microsoft announced today that it will provide virtual game day experiences to NFL fans using Teams as part of efforts to observe health standards amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL will display spectators on LED screens in stadiums and on broadcast during key games.
Fans will be featured via a virtual feed called Fan Mosaic, where the home team can invite them to watch games together through a VIP Teams meeting. They will also see the live game alongside a gallery view of other spectators in a dual screen display. Audio from the Teams meetings will be mixed with augmented crowd noise tailored for each stadium.
The NFL will also install LED screens at each end zone in key games to let the players celebrate moments with fans when they score a touchdown. For each touchdown celebration, players can see the Fan Mosaic on the LED screens and connect with fans through the Bud Light Showtime cam.
Teams will also be used by the league to manage operations throughout the season every week as the number of representatives onsite will be reduced. The NFL staff will use the videoconferencing tool for communication, document collaboration, and reporting, among others.
Microsoft and NFL have been working since 2013 on many initiatives to provide support to coaching staff and referees as well as improve the fan experience. That partnership was extended earlier this year.
By Rich Woods
Microsoft is extending its Surface deal with the NFL
by Rich Woods
Image via AP Today, Microsoft announced a multi-year extension of its partnership with the NFL, which has provided Surface hardware to the league since 2013. While there have been hiccups in the partnership over that time, such as with announcers calling them iPads or Patriots coach Bill Belichick ranting about them, it seems that those hiccups were exactly that.
Aside from that extension, the partnership will also include Microsoft Teams, the company's collaboration service. Teams will be able to use Teams (pun intended) for general collaboration, for drawing up plays with Whiteboard integration, and more. In fact, several teams are already using Teams.
"Since 2013, Microsoft has helped transform the NFL through technology around our game. Microsoft Surface has quickly become an authentic tool to the game of football and is vital during all NFL games for coaches, players, and NFL officials.," said Renie Anderson, Chief Revenue Officer and Executive Vice President of NFL Partnerships. "And now by working together to integrate Microsoft Teams across the League, together we aim to improve on communications and collaboration in a modern way."
The Miami Dolphins used Teams to plan Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium, the New York Jets use it for their football and business operations, including the draft, and the Kansas City Chiefs use it to coordinate scouts.
"In Microsoft Teams we can easily collaborate on files, manage shared calendars, host meetings, and utilize existing integrations," said Kim Rometo, Vice President and Chief Information Officer for the Miami Dolphins. "Teams made cooperation with the NFL possible throughout the regular season and with Super Bowl planning."
Microsoft says it will continue supporting the Surface Sideline Viewing System and the Surface Instant Replay, and it will continue to develop new solutions for teams and for the league.