Super Bowl XLV was the most watched Television program in history. Half of the country tuned in to watch Aaron Rodgers perform some surgery in between crowdsourced Doritos commercials.
Super Bowl XLV averaged 111 million viewers on the Fox network.
And it wasn’t a squeaker. The game surpassed last year’s Super Bowl by 4.5 million viewers. That game, on CBS, reached the pinnacle of American television viewing by hitting 106.5 million total viewers, just half a million more than what had been television’s perennial audience champ, the finale of the series “M*A*S*H,” in 1983, which attracted 106 million viewers.The figure for total number of viewers watching at least some part of the game also set a new record with 162.9 million, also well up from the previous record of 153.4 million last year.
Fans of all shades of gold had a pretty good time all things considered. Well that’s just great. But let me tell you why the Super Bowl was a failure.
It’s not because the halftime show was a complete tragedy, (really, Black Eyed Peas? Ride Autotune all the way to the goddamn Super Bowl and then decide that when 160 million people are watching is the time to take Fergie’s training wheels off?), or because the roof was closed when a fleet of F-18s flew overhead. It isn’t because Christina Aguilera flubbed the anthem, or even because 400 people paid $3000 to be promptly escorted outside. Though the game itself was solid, the presentation hasn’t changed in years. And, well, isn’t it about time? FOX has a feeling they should be doing something, but their attempt to score background music to the game’s action was about as welcome as an MMS from Brett Favre. Music to help us understand how to feel? Why don’t you just add a laughtrack to the broadcast, that way we’ll know when Joe Buck is being funny. WAIT. That one’s not so bad.
So what am I really after?
Now, we’ve talked about 3DTV here a couple of times, but Darren Rovell, who’s been a huge proponent of the talent-fan-journalist interaction triumvirate, pointed out last week that the true future of Television likely involves adding a dimension that won’t require glasses to see – just a Twitter login. And I’m inclined to agree. Here at AA, we know all too well the problems associated with the one-way street that is traditional TV. So when are the networks going to catch on?! Don’t get me wrong, I have as much fun ripping on announcers as the next guy, but how many times can we remark that we’re smarter than the guys with the microphones before something actually changes? Well, there are a few media outlets that are starting to realize how involving fans in the show creates a more engaging experience. The concept, of course, is nothing new, and neither is the idea of gathering on the Interwebz for discussion. But both of those things have gotten a hell of a lot easier and carry a lot more mainstream weight than ever before.
Being active on Twitter is something I really only learned to appreciate when I started writing for AA. It immediately enhanced my game-watching experience by basically functioning like a giant dynamic chat room. It’s as simple to understand as being able to share your snarky comments with others who are interested instead of a girlfriend whose only response is “is it over yet?” Of course, you also get more back from the community than from Troy Aikman on his best day.
If you needed an extended bathroom break from all the pizza, you could find out what ‘Imported from Detroit’ means and be linked to the 2 minute commercial right away. If you wanted a glimpse at what’s happening in the game, something like Quickish, which filters relevant sports tweets, is awesome.
Great right? But that’s not enough for me.
Now, I didn’t, uh…watch the VMAs or anything…but I did learn from Twitter’s media blog that MTV did some pretty cool stuff to augment the experience of watching at home. And I don’t mean just reading off a few incoherent tweets at random like some shows do. Instead, they used Twitter’s data to create a YUGE scoreboard that ranked the real-time buzz around artists, songs, and the like in tweets/minute, and hilighted moments when key changes took place, like a surprise appearance by that fox Rihanna. CNBC’s Fast Money recently started strategically using Twitter to extend the show through commercial breaks. Jebus, even freaking CSPAN got in on the action by featuring congress members’ 140-character reactions alongside President Obama’s State of the Union Address a couple of weeks ago. This really is the future of TV, or at least part of that future.
So what gives NFL? FOX? You guys have the most-watched program in television history staring you in the face, with some of the most adamant fans this side of Justin Bieber and you’re really going to get out-innovated by a bunch of guys in powdered wigs?! Twitter itself also set a record on Super Bowl Sunday – the most tweets per second ever. Both of these things are clearly being consumed in increasing numbers, and there are obvious benefits to using them together. So how about getting some fan reactions to the challenge flags? Mike Pereira’s great but wouldn’t it be fun to see what the fans saw before the official call came in? After all, we often joke that we have better angles on our HD sets than the zebra gets looking into that booth. What about getting some analytical input from the many sports writers and NFL players alike who have obviously embraced the tech in significant numbers, instead of being limited to a 2-person team? Wouldn’t at least alluding to the commercial-centric conversations after the breaks increase the value of what are already the most expensive ad spots in broadcasting? Or covering some of the hilarious prop bets that everyone was talking about (or the even more hilarious ones they’re making up)? Let me tell you, the lack of creativity is as staggering as the financial hit I took at the hands of several gallons of orange Gatorade. Maybe the NFL should just hire me to head up a Fan Interaction department. First order of business: Hire Ochocinco to replace me.
To be fair, they may have just been trying to avoid sifting through a tidal wave of “Fergie’s doing to Slash’s music what her surgeon did to her face” and “RT this if you flew to Dallas and your seat didn’t exist $&^$*%@#!!!” Welp, I guess there’s always next year.