The Social Bowl

For the first time, the NFL streamed the 2012 Superbowl on the web.  Let’s all welcome them to 2008!  Since I am not a sports fan, I figured I would watch the game on TV and online simultaneously and compare the two experiences from a social media perspective.  Ah, ADHD nerdiness.

There were definitely some good points to the online version. They offered a multi-angle feature where you could view the game from several different vantage points in a small window while watching the game on the main screen.  You could also make one of those angles your main view if you wanted.   That was kinda cool.  And there was a live Twitter feed which streamed commentary from Jimmy Fallon (?) and someone named “Tafoya, Florio” (???).  It also allowed you to ask questions to Mr./Mrs. Florio via Twitter, for what that’s worth.

Also, the online version provided instant access to the famed big-budget commercials.  They wisely permitted viewers to only see the commercials after they were broadcast.  No cheating!  I also noticed the commercials were timed differently.  It was hard to tell if they played the same commercials on TV compared to online.  But they were definitely not timed the same.

Other than that, the online version was, frankly, disappointing.  First and foremost it was hard to find the game on but I eventually found it on  Why wasn’t the biggest NFL event of the year streamed directly on the front screen of the NFL website?  Hello McFly!  Anybody home?  And apparently they sealed off the non-US market.  I’m sure the NFL had a reason for doing this.  But given the potential for global growth, could it possibly have been a good reason?

Additionally, the online interface lacked substantial fan interaction.  When the internet facilitates interactivity (i.e. it becomes more social) more people use the medium.  Such interactivity was almost non-existent on the website, other than the ability to ask “Tafoya, Florio” (again, ???) a question.  Indeed, I found monitoring, and commenting on, my Facebook and Twitter feeds to be much more enjoyable than watching the game itself.

The website also said Twitter predicted “Giants 55%, Patriots 45%” without explaining what that meant, where the metric came from or anything.  More detail and context would have been appreciated.

Perhaps most disappointing was the one-minute time delay online.  People monitoring their Twitter feeds while watching the game online would find out what happened on Twitter a full minute before seeing the play.   Since a minute in Twitterland may as well be a lifetime, more needs to be done to improve real-time streaming.

As a non-sports fan I found this to be the best Superbowl ever: not because it was a good game (which it was) but because I spent the entire time in hyper-ADHD mode, bouncing back and forth from the TV to Twitter to Facebook, jotting down notes and nom nom noming on snacks.  Sadly, it was an interactive experience which the NFL did little to facilitate.  Social media offers an interactive platform that TV simply cannot compete with.  The NFL could, and should, capitalize on this opportunity.

Of course the big question remains:  did the NFL, NBC and/or the advertisers make more money because the Superbowl was streamed online?  When I hear something I’ll let you know.  Meanwhile professional sports need to come into the 21st century and, at the very least, allow fans to subscribe to their favorite games online.  Otherwise they look like dinosaurs.  And they need to make their online interface more social.  That way, people will want to visit their website.  In the long run this will, ahem, make them more money.

The best part of online streaming?  They did not broadcast the Halftime show.  Good Lord, what was that?  Anyone?


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