Inside the Technology of the NFL


With the exception of a few helmet headsets and some cameras, the NFL is void of technology inside the lines of scrimmage. It’s just a few referees and 22 giants going head to head. But outside those lines, technology is what makes the world of the NFL spin. From broadcasting to play calling, coaches, coordinators, players and fans at home all depend on the latest tech to make America’s game enjoyable. Here are some of the biggest technologies that make all the difference, and you didn’t even notice they were there.


NFL Sunday Ticket

The NFL is home to the most popular sports television package in America. NFL Sunday Ticket is an exclusive offer through DirecTV that gives fans access to every game on Sunday regardless of location (no blackouts). More than 2 million people subscribe each year and it’s the satellite company’s biggest cash cow. Other professional sports leagues have TV packages of their own, but none come close to the popularity of Sunday Ticket.

XBox One

XBox One is so much more than a gaming machine for NFL fanatics. Between rounds of Madden, viewers can connect their cable or satellite service to the console to watch their favorite games next to scores, fantasy rosters and the latest news — all in one screen and all on the XBox.

Microsoft Surface

Even the clipboard got a high-tech upgrade, so the coach might want to think twice before slamming one on the ground. Players and coaches now use Microsoft Surface tablets for play calling, reviewing footage and other forms of communication on the sideline. Microsoft struck a $400 million deal with the NFL in 2013 to have its tablets as the exclusive sideline tool (the new content on XBox was also part of this deal). The NFL still struggles with all the players, coaches, and announcers calling them “iPads,” but they are useful tools on the sideline nonetheless.

Lenovo Computers

While the teams are using the Microsoft Surface on the sidelines, the NFL front offices have state-of-the-art Lenovo computers upstairs. Like Microsoft, Lenovo had its own deal with the NFL and its teams to have its computers inside the stadium and its brand used in advertising during the game. It’s just another example of how technology and branding come together in football.

First Down Line

The most impressive tech used in the NFL (and now all of televised football) is the tech we don’t even notice is there — the yellow line that marks a first down on the field. It’s such a simple concept, but it actually takes a series of computers and a team of engineers to make it happen. Every NFL stadium has a complete 3D scan of the field so computers can place the first down line without it digitally running on top of players (like a green screen). Even though the process is much more refined now, it used to cost the NFL millions of dollars to produce for something we take for granted today.


This is a post by Jim Burch who was born and raised near St. Louis with an obsession for baseball and the Cardinals. College days brought him south to Kentucky where he studied creative writing and journalism while working as an editor for the Murray State News. These days, he writes in Arizona.

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About Max Green

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