Super Bowl LVII: The new tech frontier
By Reece Hainesborough
The State Farm stadium in Phoenix, Arizona, played host to Sunday’s Super Bowl LVII, which saw the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 to lift their third Vince Lombardi trophy. 182.6 million viewers watched all or part of the game, making it one of the biggest events on the sporting calendar.
There’s a lot more to the Super Bowl than the game itself, of course. The event is also marked by technological innovations that dominate headlines. These advances have become crucial to the evolution of the sporting spectacle, and sports in general, and have changed the way we consume major sporting events for the better. The ads, streaming capabilities, and demand for data are just three topics that have been featured in the media this year. Let’s take a closer look at what’s been said.
Streaming audiences for the Super Bowl have grown steadily year-on-year, with this year’s being the most streamed, garnering an average audience of 7 million – a new record that beat, you guessed it, the last Super Bowl, which averaged 6 million live streamers. Only the World Cup comes close to its popularity in the U.S. The recent tournament in Qatar was, at the time, the third most-streamed event in FOX Sports history, after Super Bowl LI and Super Bowl LIV, respectively.
Streaming is well on the way to becoming the dominant method of viewing, creating many opportunities for media companies to unlock exciting new interactive features and revenue streams.
The half-time advertising is one of the most talked-about aspects of the Super Bowl’s TV experience. Some of the world’s biggest brands spend months making ads that cost as much as $7 million for just 30 seconds. However, with tighter budgets, we are now seeing companies look at innovative ways to save time and money while still being innovative and reaching their respective audiences.
Unsurprisingly, ChatGPT became a major talking point in the build-up. Avocados From Mexico, representing more than 30,000 Mexican avocado growers, initially announced it would introduce an interactive ChatGPT function to its Super Bowl ad. It planned to feature a QR code that would enable viewers to automatically generate tweets using the generative AI tool. However, it backtracked on its grand ambitions shortly afterwards. As Google found last week, AI-powered chatbots need to be carefully tested before being let loose on a live audience.
Even though the AI element of the Avocados From Mexico ad was not Super Bowl-ready, the story does hint at things to come, especially judging by the way that ChatGPT has captured the public’s imagination. This was demonstrated recently by the popularity of Ryan Reynolds’ recent Mint Mobile ad, in which he read a script composed live by ChatGPT. He described the experience as “mildly terrifying, but compelling.”
AI is set to disrupt the media landscape, and as the technology develops further, so will the creativity of companies looking to use it. We can expect it to become more common in advertising in the future and become a feature of other mainstream sports events.
Connectivity during major sports isn’t just for fans watching at home. Across the sporting spectrum, organisations have been incorporating more technology in-stadium to ensure fans can interact during games. In-stadium wi-fi has become a massive deal as a result, and the State Farm Stadium was designed with a network capable of handling petabytes of data as opposed to “simply” terabytes.
According to Ken Martin, general manager and director of global sales in Cisco’s Sports and Entertainment Solutions Group, wi-fi traffic has been growing considerably in recent years despite the same number of fans in the stadium. He points out that they are consuming the game differently and always on their mobile phones.
The State Farm Stadium ensured it was ahead of the curve to be the perfect host for the modern sports audience. Improved connectivity also meant broadcasters were able to transmit their content more efficiently, without disruption from the mass social media content being posted during the game. In addition, broadcasters benefited from more robust digital antenna systems and more efficient network security than ever before.
Technology is helping sports organisations and media companies reach and engage audiences in exciting new ways, providing constant access to in-play information, analysis, and more. Such engagement provides a platform to make the most of fans’ appetites for the sports they love and generate new revenue streams. We truly are in a new era of sports broadcasting.
The Super Bowl demonstrates just how quickly technology is evolving. The ways we communicate and interact with high profile events is fundamentally changing. Media companies and their tech partners are at the forefront of this exciting change and, at Platform, we are proud to work with many of the pioneering companies that are driving the industry forward.
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