Op-Ed: Super Bowl XLVI – Six Screens to Glory

By Kiran Aditham 

As our Super Bowl post-game coverage winds down, we give you this write-up from Don Seaman, TVB’s manager of marketing communications, which is the non-profit trade association of America’s commercial broadcast TV industry. Here, the exec discusses his interesting, rather busy Super Bowl viewing experience.

I’m a Giants fan.  I also work in the media industry.  But it pains me to admit that up until Saturday, mine was  among the 30 percent of homes that still don’t have HDTV.  With the Giants in the Super Bowl, it became a moral imperative to experience the game in the best way possible, at least from my own living room.  After all, I had a responsibility to the TVB to make this some cutting edge viewing research.


The thing is, in 2012 watching the game on your living room HDTV isn’t the only “best” way to watch the game anymore.  And no, I didn’t spring for the full 3D TV experience.  It’s bigger than that.  Today, you can virtually have an “all-access” pass to the Super Bowl while still being hundreds of miles from the stadium.

Besides my “main” access hub to the game in all of its high-definition glory, I’m toggling my attention back and forth between not only a second screen, but a third.

First, I’ve got the NFL Mobile app on my 4G smartphone – which is streaming the game.  And on my laptop, I have NFL.com – through NBC Sports – which is also streaming.  In an homage to linear TV, the NFL.com feed offers “full DVR control.”

Additionally, I have another browser open to ConnecTV, the broadcaster-backed social TV site which syncs with the program that you’re watching to give you updated information about the program, along with the opportunity to interact with others who are also watching the game and are in the ConnecTV space.  Naturally, I also have Facebook open and am monitoring Twitter.

In retrospect, I wonder if this is how air-traffic controllers feel while they’re on the job.

I had the Super Bowl coming into my living room from six different sources, and all those screens turned an already an over-stimulating event, especially when it’s “your” team involved, into a hyper-stimulating one. Luckily, I wasn’t taking this viewing experiment on at a Super Bowl party. This was just one man, alone with his thoughts.  And six screens.

The experience was enlightening.

First, even though each of the game sources was broadcasting/streaming live, there is a slight delay between each device.  So I found myself quickly abandoning those auxiliary viewing sources in deference to my new widescreen HDTV.  On their own, the digital viewing sources for free over-the-air television are each remarkable.  However, “TV everywhere” probably means “everywhere but in your living room.”  This is clearly not intended as primary Super Bowl viewing – were this a party, no one’s crowding around a laptop to watch the game.

The ConnecTV experience was a good one – it could have been a distraction but instead enhanced the viewing experience.  I learned a few facts about some Super Bowl records and saw a few interesting comments along the way; after the Patriots gave up a safety on their opening possession, someone posted “Well, that will sure screw up the point spread!” I surely would have made more than two new virtual friends had I spent more time there.

Just as I settled in to the live social experience and was about to take in halftime, my family returned from a neighbor’s Super Bowl party.  My 6-year-old daughter got to watch Madonna provide some moderately family-friendly viewing. While I wrestled the remote and my smartphone from my toddler’s insistent grip, the computer crashed, and mayhem ensued.  Halftime was now bedtime, and I engaged the seventh piece of technology that turned out to be the most important of all – the pause button on my Tivo remote.

The phone calls (ignored) and text messages (ditto) started coming in around 10 p.m..  But it wasn’t until around 11:30 that I caught up to the rest of America and could celebrate another signature Giants nailbiter of a win.  By the time I checked back in, ConnecTV had moved on, synching to the live broadcast of Jimmy Fallon, and I was once again just a man and his single screen.

Now there’s that last bit of unfinished TV business – just how many of us watched live, and how many more post-bedtime viewers like me would there be?  Stay tuned for that final score, right after I unpause this report.

Scoring Super Bowl XLVI Social Points

  • The game set a record for Tweets for a sporting event.  There were 10,000 tweets per second (TPS) during the last three minutes of the game.
  • According to Bluefin Labs, there were over 12.2 million social media comments made during and after the game – a 578 percent increase over what they tracked last year.
  • The ads for the game generated more social media comments (985,000) than the entire 2011 Academy Awards broadcast.
  • The halftime show alone produced nearly as many social media comments (862,000) than the 2011 Academy Awards.  Taken alone, it would rank fourth of all entertainment broadcasts for social media comments.
  • The final numbers will show that the game easily set a new record for comments on social TV, well above the previous record set by last August’s “MTV Video Music Awards.”