INDIANAPOLIS: For the first time in history, the Super Bowl, Feb. 5 at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, will be officially streamed live to online viewers and mobile phones.
Available at NBCSports.com and NFL.com, the Super Bowl XLVI streaming version will employ NBC's Sunday Night Football Extra (SNF Extra) user interface. SNF Extra gives viewers access to multiple/selectable HD camera angles, DVR-style controls, in-game highlights, live statistics and various interactive elements.
"We won't be cannibalizing our broadcast audience by streaming the Super Bowl," said Rick Cordella, vice president of NBC Sports Digital Media. "In fact, we'll be adding to it."
The notion that streaming media can build broadcast viewership—rather than eat into it—seems counter-intuitive. However, it is a belief backed by facts.
"To date, we have streamed some 100 events live on NBCSports.com as well as showing them on TV," Cordella said. "The comprehensive research we've done during this time proves that a combined streamed/broadcast approach actually incrementally increases the broadcast audience—and boosts the ad revenues associated with it."
To prove his point, he cites NBC Sports' broadcast of the 2011 French Open tennis championship last June. "The broadcast playbacks were tape-delayed, with the website showing the live feed," he says. "Much to our surprise, the West Coast broadcast over-indexed on TV ratings by 9 percent. It turned out that the buzz created by people watching the live stream motivated them to turn to the broadcast when it came on later."
Available at NB CSports.com and NFL.com, the Super Bowl XLVI streaming version will employ NB C's Sunday Night Football Extra (SNF Extra) user interface. NBC Sports' experience with combined streamed/broadcast programming has proven what common sense has long suggested: Given a choice between watching football on a 60-inch HDTV, a PC, tablet, or smartphone, viewers will choose the HDTV whenever they can.
Meanwhile, "streaming the Super Bowl allows us to reach all those people who don't have access to an HDTV; whether at work or on the road," Cordella notes. "It also allows us to reach those 50 percent of our viewers who have the TV on while they are playing with a 'second screen' device. Since they're looking at both, we should be on both—at the same time."
One thing is certain: Advertisers are seeing the value of NBC Sports' multi-platform approach. The network has sold out all of its streaming media ads, in addition to all of its on-air commercial slots, according to NBC Sports spokesman Chris McCloskey. While the on-air spots still command top dollar—up to $4 million per 30-second slot—streaming slots are selling for less; apparently between from "six figures to the low sevens," McCloskey told the "International Business Times."
MAKING IT WORTHWHILE
As NBC Sports has acknowledged in the design of SNF Extra, second screen users can't be won with a simple broadcast simulcast. This is why SNF Extra has so many Web-only features to it, with an emphasis on interactivity to keep this audience engaged.
Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis will host Super Bowl XLVI. The approach works: On average, NBCSports.com logs 200,000 to 300,000 SNF Extra unique visitors when the regular Sunday night NFL game is on.
For the Super Bowl, "We are going to add a lot of extra goodies," Cordella says. "For instance, you know all those cool commercials that the Super Bowl is famous for? SNF Extra viewers will be able to access those commercials on demand during the game, right after they've aired.
"In addition, we will have a variety of online exclusive content that will be produced and distributed to our audience, including Michele Tafoya's quarterly sideline reports," said Adam Freifeld, NBC Sports' vice president of communications. "By leveraging our array of broadcast cameras and web-only crews, we are able to produce four feeds: CableCam, Sideline Cam, Endzone Cam and Star Cam. All are produced onsite and fed back to our encoding facility for distribution."
Super Bowl XLVI will be a true "coming of age" for streaming media. No longer is it an after-thought, or seen as an audience-devouring threat to traditional programming. Instead, streaming is an integral element of this broadcaster's approach to the game—and a real contributor to its bottom line.
"Besides, if we didn't stream the Super Bowl officially, the Web would be crammed with all kinds of pirated feeds," Cordella concludes. "In fact, we expect to see pirated feeds even though the game will be on NBCSports.com. That's just how some people are."
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James Careless is an award-winning journalist who has written for TV Technology since the 1990s. He has covered HDTV from the days of the six competing HDTV formats that led to the 1993 Grand Alliance, and onwards through ATSC 3.0 and OTT. He also writes for Radio World, along with other publications in aerospace, defense, public safety, streaming media, plus the amusement park industry for something different.
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