For any football fan who has ever yelled at the TV about a poorly timed switch to a different camera angle, Verizon's new service is tantalizing.
Customers who subscribe to television and high-speed Internet services from the company receive free access to bonus online content during games that air on the NFL Network. Along with other bells and whistles, they can choose among three camera angles on their computer in addition to the main TV feed: the sideline cam, the end zone cam, and the cable cam hovering above the field.
With the next NFL Network game kicking off Thursday night, is the Game Extra service worth checking out for the 1.5 million or so customers who have access to it?
Testing the service during last week's Packers-Cowboys game suggested that its most practical functions may be some of its more mundane ones.
The ability to switch camera angles proved less useful than it sounds. While the sideline cam is, of course, located on the sideline, it does not always follow the action from the same angle. This is the actual camera used by the NFL Network, so sometimes the operator is zooming in on a particular player or the huddle or a coach on the bench to get a certain shot.
Indeed, the most entertaining part of the alternate camera angles was often the voyeuristic sense of watching close-ups of players preparing to line up or talking between snaps, images rarely seen during telecasts.
The cable cam consistently offered the most interesting angles, including a great close-up during a commercial of medical staff examining Packers quarterback Brett Favre after he injured his arm in the second quarter.
Yes, the camera angles are available during commercial breaks. But when the action is going on, it takes a few seconds to load the new view every time you switch camera angles, so it's not possible to seamlessly flip from the TV feed to the end zone cam mid-play.
A "Quad View" showing the TV feed and the three alternate angles at the same time is available, but the images were fuzzy.
The most useful part of this service may be the fact that it's portable. Customers can log on to it from any computer with a high-speed connection, even one that doesn't use Verizon.
So if fans are out of town the night of a game and the nearest TV doesn't carry the NFL Network, they can still watch the contest.
The feed — multiple camera angles and all — can even be viewed on a television set if the computer is hooked up to it with the proper kind of cable. But don't expect the image to be as clear as a regular broadcast of the game in standard definition, let alone HDTV. As with any video viewed online, the feed proved to be choppy at times.
Verizon customers already receive the NFL Network as part of their package for television service.
The Web page with the multiple camera angles also includes live stats, a drive chart and the ability to chat with other fans. Video highlight packages are posted throughout the game.
Midway through the second quarter of last Thursday's game, a clip of Favre's first-quarter interception was already available. By halftime, a compilation of key first-quarter plays was up. For a fan with a DVR, though, the highlights might not be that big of a deal.
Watching the game on TV while checking out the alternate camera angles online would be tough because the Internet feed is several seconds behind the television broadcast.