Lately, we’ve been seeing more and more big television events come with an online streaming counterpart. Sporting and televised events are showing up online with increasing frequency, with the 2010 Olympics seeming to be one of the first big global events where both viewers and media publicly recognized the power and potential of carrying an event like that online.
This year, for the first time in history, the Super Bowl is being shown online, for free. And it’s completely legal. I was going to say “in a brilliant move by the NFL,” but this should be default. Showing an enormously popular event like the Super Bowl online should not be a “brilliant” move. It should just be second nature. But, wishful thinking aside, the NFL and NBC both wanted to give home viewers options to watch the big game on the Web, without having to rub elbows with the riff raff at a local sports bar.
Interestingly, leading up to the game, over the course of the last week, the Feds began seizing domain names owned by popular sports streaming sites, like Firstrowsports.tv, Firstrowsports.com and Soccertvlive.net, etc. You can read more at TorrentFreak here. Obviously, that action was taken in the name of freedom and preventing piracy, but it’s also in part to protecting the fairly sizable interests of the NFL and NBC.
In spite of that ignominious beginning, especially in light of SOPA and all the controversy lately over seizures like MegaUpload, the streaming online experience tonight during the Super Bowl was pretty amazing. Pre-game coverage started at 2pm on NBCSports.com, with streaming capabilities featuring the ability to pause and rewind, embedded live streams from Twitter and Facebook, and four different camera angles to boot.
While that in and of itself is exciting, the 2012 Super Bowl streaming experience itself left a lot to be desired. The actual banner ads, the online ads being served on NBCSports.com, weren’t particularly offensive, or a pain in the ass. But, the problem is that most people watch the Super Bowl in groups, not as individuals, and most choose to do so through a projector, or streaming the Web onto their TV or a big screen.
In addition, many people watch the Super Bowl strictly for ads or for the halftime show, which, in spite of the ads finding a way to be disappointing each and every year, is a spectacle year in, year out — without fail. Even if the music is awful.
For streaming viewers looking to watch ads in realtime, there was a tab which they could mouse over to watch all the ads after they aired, but the commercials were not shown during the breaks in the online broadcast, when they were actually supposed to air. Streaming viewers who chose not to pick their own commercials just got an enormous eyeful of the same ads, repeating ad nauseam.
Airing on television, live on the boob tube, were the full slate of “creative” ads, from each and every brand; however, airing live on the Web was a loop of GE, Budweiser, and Samsung commercials, punctuated annoyingly by Rainn Wilson, who just became increasingly annoying. The one bonus: Both the Chevy commercial and the Samsung commercial aired online before they did on TV, so streamers got a sneak peek. I realize I may be complaining about small inconveniences, when really I should be celebrating the fact that the Super Bowl was streaming online, legally, for free, but …
For those looking to watch the halftime show, expecting to see Madonna and company, all they got was an endless interview shot in a hallway. Personally, it didn’t completely ruin my Super Bowl experience to be deprived of Madonna’s performance, but it certainly seems that NBC swung and missed on that one. Strike two.
Furthermore, if you are an American living abroad or wanted to watch the biggest football game of the year, NBC only offered limited options, as the network’s broadcast rights didn’t extend internationally.
Sure, increasingly, big sporting events are moving online, but significant limitations endure. The Super Bowl will air on CBS next year, and CBS might as well get started now if it’s going to provide a legitimate alternative.
Including the halftime show in coverage online will be significant, as will providing viewing for international football fans and Americans living abroad. While there was a lot of great functionality, and the quality of the broadcast was pretty good (depending on your Internet connection), and it was very cool to be able to switch between camera views. The future is clearly here, but sometimes it looks blurry in Silverlight.
That being said, NBC definitely has a grin from ear to ear. The game was fantastic, it went down to the last minute, and The Voice still gets to air in primetime on both coasts.
The Super Bowl also proved that spending millions on commercials still can’t buy you creativity, even though geeks were very excited about that Best Buy commercial.