New Wave of Smartphones Open Opportunities for NeuLion Mobile Apps

Sports-television viewers are all too familiar with the battle: Samsung mocking “fanboys”, Apple’s kitchy indie music, Motorola’s crying mother and daughter. The smartphone wars continue to rage on televisions and in stores across the country. In the meantime, each company continues to push the envelope on technological design.

One of NeuLion’s 60 college mobile-app clients, Clemson has chosen to keep its premium video content free to give it exposure to more fans.

The latest wave of top-of-the-line smartphones, including the iPhone 5, the Galaxy SIII, and the Droid Razr Maxx, follow a common theme: larger, sharper screens. As more Americans use their phones for watching video, the demand exists for a better video experience.

That’s big news for companies that, like NeuLion, provide video services on both Web and mobile platforms for sports clients ranging from the NFL to the UFC to the NHL.

In the recent past, one of the limitations of smartphones was that viewing live streaming video on a phone was tenuous at best. With the advent of 4G and these larger screens, that’s hardly the case anymore.

“These screens are beautiful,” says Chris Wagner, EVP/co-founder of NeuLion. “That’s basically what Apple has countered with with their new iPhone: to compete on screen size because the Galaxy SIII and its predecessor had a bigger screen, so all of the smartphones are going big screens, which allows you to drive nice HD video. I think it’s another reason why our mobile traffic has been growing so much more quickly than our PC traffic.”

Video — especially live video — is the bread-and-butter of NeuLion’s mobile sports strategy and the new bigger, sharper screens on the iPhone 5 and Galaxy SIII According to the company, mobile and tablet traffic has increased 113% year over year, and mobile traffic now accounts for more than 25% of NeuLion’s total traffic on its college network.

NeuLion has more than 175 college clients using its mobile Web service; 60 of them have custom-designed apps. To take advantage of the new wave of larger, HD screens, NeuLion has been rolling out updated versions of its services to schools more willing to offer their premium online content in high-definition to fans through mobile devices.

“For our colleges, from a B2B standpoint, they like it because they drive more revenue of their premium subscription products because there’s more places to watch it,” says Wagner. “You don’t have to carry around your laptop and open it up on the train to watch a highlight, you can just pop it right onto your smartphone.”

According to Wagner, the newest NeuLion apps are also aimed at the in-venue experience, offering everything from updated stadium maps to parking information and game stats and information. He admits, however, that picking up a reliable signal inside a crowded stadium is still a work in progress.

“4G does help it; I don’t think it totally solves it,” says Wagner. “The way that we do it is, as you’re coming into the stadium, you can do a quick refresh and have the most current information even without a great WiFi connection. It caches it all in your device.”

One of the challenges for cellphone users is managing data usage. With some major providers, including Verizon, tossing its unlimited data plans by the wayside, watching HD video on a phone can prove costly. There’s little a company like NeuLion can do to counter this issue, but Wagner recommends using WiFi whenever possible to watch HD video.

“To an iPhone and Android device, we deliver about five to six different bitrates,” he says. “If you’re on a 3G network, it will actually scale itself down because of the network. With 4G, which all of our apps support, you get a nice HD stream you’re just going to be paying more [for]. In that case, the cheapest route to go is wireless.”

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