The Super Bowl is traditionally the biggest live television event on the U.S. calendar and this year’s occasion was no different – even with the coronavirus-shaped elephant in the stadium. In short, Super Bowl LV continued to celebrate the creative industries’ ingenuity.
If CES is a showcase of technology’s potential future, the Super Bowl is a glimpse of where technology is today – and its commercial viability. Whether it’s new TV camera techniques, the battle for eyeballs on social media or advertisers spending big bucks for highly coveted 30-second ad spaces, the Super Bowl is the TV marketer’s championship event. Here are a few of this year’s highlights!
CBS use 120 cameras to capture one game
So many cameras – so many angles! One of the most dynamic of the 120 camera shots came from ‘Trolley Cam’, part of a point-to-point cabled camera system, which ran the length of the sidelines. Jason Cohen, VP, remote technical operations, CBS Sports, explained to SVG that, “the beauty of [Trolley Cam] is its speed. It can go up to 65mph. I doubt that even Tyreek Hill is going to be able to outrun it.”
— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) February 7, 2021
A new record for streaming numbers
Although the CBS broadcast failed to break the 100 million-viewer mark this year, a new record was set for Super Bowl live-streaming. On average, the game reached the screens of 5.7 million viewers per minute – up a whopping 69% since last year’s previous high. Yes, the TV broadcast figures look gloomy on paper – but as Alex Hickey of Morning Brew explains, the annual value of the NFL broadcast totals $7.5 billion – and that number is expected to double when the existing 2021 and 2022 season contracts expire. The value of the content is going nowhere.
Instead, the numbers reflect a broader trend in viewing habits and these streaming numbers will only further increase year-on-year for the foreseeable future. We can even see how advertising models are starting to shift – overall viewership of in-game Super Bowl ads on YouTube rose over 70% from 2020.
Based on the sheer proliferation of devices and screens now available, the key for broadcasters and advertisers will be to find ways to deliver streaming performance quality that is as reliable and picture-perfect as broadcast. They will also need to focus on providing a variety of services that match the needs of respective viewers. In the future, perhaps, a viewer in the US will only want to pay to see the climactic fourth quarter, while a viewer in Europe will only want to access as far as the half-time show to avoid a sleep-deprived Monday.
Half-time Show: Creative and socially distanced
Covid-19 restricted The Weeknd to performing the majority of his set from the stands but what a spectacle! As ProductionHUB reports, it was the use of five RailCam Robotic Systems that played such a key role in delivering the performance to TV viewers, with the cameras mounted on telescopic towers and rail systems around the stage. Neon signs, creative use of set layering, pyrotechnics, pop-up choirs and orchestras – not to mention the dizzying hall of mirrors – all before a brilliantly choreographed rendition of ‘Blinding Lights’ for the on-field finale.
Alexa speaks out
During an internal Platform meeting yesterday, one of our team was rudely interrupted by a contribution from Siri: “I’m not sure I understand!” Sometimes AI can be too intuitive…
It’s an area that Amazon has been actively addressing in recent months. Last September it announced the development of new “natural turn-taking” features, enabling users to interact with Alexa through acoustic, linguistic and visual cues. Amazon claims Alexa will recognize when users have finished speaking, whether the speech was directed towards the device and if a reply is expected. Promising news for company meetings in the future.
And that helped form the theme of Amazon’s Super Bowl ad this year, which celebrated the success of the spherical-shaped Echo smart speaker, with a self-deprecating take on the future of AI and the possibilities for “a more beautiful vessel for Alexa to be inside…” Conviva’s “Super Bowl LV Recap” reports that the ad claimed the top spot in terms of gameday viewers (114.9 million views), with more than half coming from YouTube.
What’s next in 2021?
On paper at least, 2021 promises to be a sporting bonanza. Standout events include the rearranged Olympic Games and the UEFA European Championship, the return of a full quota of tennis grand slams and golfing majors (not forgetting the Ryder Cup), rugby union’s Lions tour, cricket’s inaugural ‘Hundred’ tournament and ‘The Ashes’ – and of course the finale to the NBA, MLB and NHL seasons.
Engaging these fans will be key. The thrill of live event television hasn’t gone away – but it has diverted in multiple directions. In a mobile and streaming-first society, the importance of catering to an array of audience needs has never been more complex – it’s now centred on instant gratification and delivering a more diverse range of content packages and services. Will we see a buffet of content services to match this year of sporting abundance? Here’s to hoping so!