Verizon Won’t Explain Confusing Ad Data Policy On NFL Mobile Streaming

If you’re a Verizon Wireless customer, you may have taken advantage of the carrier’s promotion that allows you to stream local football games via the NFL Mobile app without eating away at your monthly data allotment. However, you might not have noticed that the commercials you watch during those games do count against your data limit — at least initially. It’s confusing to some Verizon customers, and the nation’s largest wireless provider won’t explain why it’s not more straightforward.

Consumerist reader Mike recently found this out for himself when, after an afternoon of watching the Packers/Texans game on the Verizon network, he noticed that the data usage on his account had gone up, in spite of the fact that Verizon says it won’t charge you for data when streaming a game through the official NFL app.

In the fine print for this promotion on the Verizon website, you’ll see that not everything about the NFL Mobile experience is exempt from using data, including downloading and browsing within the app.

Confusingly, the agreement also reveals that the TV commercials that air during a game will be counted against your data allotment, but that “Add’l data and/or bill credits will be provided to cover data usage for ads included in NFL video content. Subject to change.”

In other words, the ads you watch on the app are initially counted against your account, but at some point your account is credited for that data.

A Verizon spokesperson did tell Consumerist that “no customer action is required” to receive this credit.

“Credits are applied prior to the end of the billing cycle,” Verizon told us. “Customers will notice the credits in their monthly bill.”

This is confusing to some Verizon customers. For example, Mike was not aware that he would eventually be credited for the ads he watched so he called Verizon, where a customer service rep updated his account accordingly.

So why does Verizon jump through all these hoops? Wouldn’t it be more efficient for all involved if — rather than parsing in-game content from commercials, then only zero-rating the game content, and then issuing credits for the rest — Verizon just zero-rated the entire stream?

That’s a question the company refuses to answer.

“We are providing a way for NFL fans to watch games without using data,” is all the Verizon spokesperson would say. “I don’t have anything more to add.”

It’s worth noting that the Federal Communications Commission recently advised Verizon and AT&T that these sorts of “sponsored data” programs may have a chilling effect on competition, which could ultimately harm consumers.

Speaking of which, we have repeatedly asked AT&T for clarification about its zero-rated offerings for DirecTV and the new DirecTV Now streaming service. We wanted to know if AT&T also treats ads differently than other streamed content, but the company has yet to respond to our queries.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.