by Mike Coffey
I’ve long pushed for Notre Dame to enter the 21st century and take advantage of technological opportunities to make the fan experience better. I’m also a staunch opponent of any kind of “big screen” in Notre Dame Stadium, preferring those who want the entertainment to provide for themselves rather than affect my game experience.
So you can imagine how excited I was to hear about the new application for iPhone and iTouch, Notre Dame Central. Created by NBC, this app would provide real-time video coverage of the team and allow those so inclined to follow along via video and see all the replays they wanted. I felt this was the logical first step towards the per-person video offerings that would keep Notre Dame Stadium Jumbotron-free.
I bought it the first day it was available and looked for my opportunity to put it through its paces. Unforeseen schedule conflicts meant I could not attend the Michigan State or Washington games, and would be otherwise occupied during the Purdue game. This allowed me to test out the app for two home games and one road game, along with a couple of during-the-week perusals.
Overall, the picture quality is very good, with the usual “it’s an iPhone not a 1080p big screen” caveats. I was able to run video on 3G at home and on the go with very few problems. I did not test it using a Wi-Fi connection, but logic would dictate the connectivity to be even better in those situations. How it will perform at an ND game with a bunch of other people hammering the cellular network, I don’t know. Reports from site users seemed to indicate connectivity left something to be desired, and I know ND was initially concerned what a bunch of video users would do to its recently-upgraded network. Rumor has it ND is looking into making the Stadium Wi-Fi enabled, so we’ll see if that comes to fruition, but for now, I would expect catch as catch can in South Bend on game day.
The On-Demand section has some good selections. The Highlights include every game and NBC feature this season, along with band performances and game wrap-ups. The Archives only has five games available: MSU 1991, BC 1995, GaTech 1997, SC 1999, and Air Force 2000. Given the good-quality video in the games they have — which are pretty similar to the game rebroadcasts available on the website (commercials and time in between plays removed) — I’m hoping they add more in the coming weeks.
The schedule seems pretty basic at first glance, but a nice feature is the ability to set game alerts — useful for road games, as their kickoff times tend to vary. Future schedules are not included.
The News and Stats section gives you access to most AP articles on the Fighting Irish, and gives you four screens of team stats (Overall, Offense, Defense, and Special Teams). I wasn’t able to determine if they were updated real-time during games, but at the very least, it’s a handy quick-reference.
The “More” section is a reference to MobiTV — the tech powering the app video — and an invitation to learn about NBC Sports Mobile, which offers things like simulcasts of NBC offerings — US Open Golf, Wimbledon, Kentucky Derby, etc. NBC Sunday Night was not listed, so I’m guessing that’s not in the package.
The key usage, though, is for games in play. Some things I liked, some I did not.
The picture quality, as I noted, is pretty good. The game is broken up into blocks that comprise one or two plays each, and you can go backwards and forwards both within a block and to previous blocks — very useful when one wants to watch a replay. There is volume control, but it was kind of hit-or-miss. I also didn’t see a button that would bring you “back to live” when you’d been looking at replays. I had to hammer the forward button until I got there.
The summary page gives the scoreboard and current scoring, along with game stats. This was very useful at the aforementioned Purdue game, which was on the road (so no video). It gives yard line, down and distance. One critical thing it’s missing, though, is who has the ball, which made following things a little tricky. It would also be nice (for road games at least) if there was a play-by-play listing, which would make it even easier to track the game, although I realize that might be more work for whoever is entering the data.
I think the app is very well put together, and since it’s the “first try” for NBC, I imagine it’s going to get even better. If the Archives section were beefed up and the navigation made a little more solid, it would be first-class. But even as it is, it’s well worth the money to add to your device.