NHL lets you predict the action with second screen gaming app

The National Hockey League, which already has an official iPad(s aapl) app, is jumping further into the second screen trend with what it calls the first sanctioned predictive gaming app for a major sports league. The free NHL PrePlay app, which just got approved, allows TV viewers to play along with a game by making live predictions on the action.

Users will be able to predict who wins face-offs or who will score the next goal and the outcomes of power plays, penalty shots and other in-game events. As the game progresses, the app will serve up new questions based on the action and will process the results of those predictions in real-time with points awarded. Before the game, players can also enter predictions on things like goalie performance or the final score. A user can play against the entire universe of PrePlay users or they can set up private challenges among friends.

There are other predictive gaming apps that let people play along with the NFL and other leagues. But the NHL is the first to incorporate the feature into a league-sanctioned app. It’s teaming with PrePlay Sports, which is supplying the predictive gaming elements for the app. Christopher J. Golier, VP Mobile Marketing & Strategy for the NHL told me the app is designed to keep fans tuned into longer games. And it can draw in more casual fans, by letting them play along from their couch.

“This is more engaging than a check-in,” Golier said. “It takes the game to the next level.”

Beer vendor Molson is sponsoring the app and is using it to augment its existing TV advertising. So when an ad shows up on TV, the app recognizes the commercial and will display a similar advertisement that offers the chance to get more information. NHL PrePlay uses Second Screen Networks’ video recognition technology to identify the commercial on air. This is becoming a new opportunity for broadcasters, who are using other audio fingerprinting technologies like Shazam and IntoNow to deliver second-screen ads that sync with on-screen content.

Golier said the app will remain separate from the existing NHL GameCenter app, which provides fuller stats, play-by-play, schedules, player information and other rich media features. But there’s a potential for the two to merge at some point. I imagine that some hardcore fans may want to jump back and forth between the apps while watching along with a game.

The app capitalizes on the increasing tendency of people to watch TV while using their tablet or smartphone. Nielsen recently found that 88 percent of tablet owners and 86 percent of smartphone owners used their devices while watching TV. Golier said the NHL is trying reach out to users no matter what screen they’re on.

While the NHL is out first with this, I imagine other leagues will follow suit. With so much dual screen viewing going on, there’s an opportunity to really enhance the televised games and make them more fun to follow. And it opens up more opportunities to pull in advertisers, who can drive home their messages using two screens.