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The Super Bowl’s Second Screen

CBS is betting on the growing audiences who will use their tablets as they watch the big game.
February 2, 2013

More than 100 million people are expected to watch this Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast, the biggest U.S. television event of the year.

Mobile fans: Tablets and smart phones are changing how fans experience and participate in the Super Bowl.

With tablet ownership doubling in 2012 to 19 percent of Americans over age 18, according to Forrester Research, CBS is doing more than ever to lure those viewers to the so-called “second screen” and sell to advertisers who want reach that audience. The plan’s success—or lack thereof—will likely influence advertisers considering whether or not to buy interactive online and social media ads tied to live events.  

“We’re looking for some really big numbers,” says Jason Kint, senior vice president and general manager of CBSSports.com. A survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of game advertiser Century 21 found that 36 percent of people who plan to watch the game also anticipate using non-TV devices.

For tablet and Web visitors, the network will display and promote four live camera angles streaming on CBSSports.com, including a full-field view that’s usually used in the broadcast only to break down key plays, as well as a “fan choice” camera based on polls throughout the game.

It will attempt to keep site visitors from leaving for Twitter or Facebook by mining social media trends and displaying live visualizations and tweets from high-profile commentators. For the second year, the game will also stream live online for those few who don’t watch it on TV.

The network’s hope is to augment its revenue from the TV broadcast by selling ad packages for its video camera and online feeds. Online ads generally sell for far less than lucrative on-air commercials, where a single 30-second Super Bowl spot averages more than $3 million. But Adweek estimates that the event could bring in $10 million to $12 million for CBS through online programming alone. While that is far more than the estimated $2 million NBC took in last year, it is still a pittance compared to the TV broadcast.

Besides paying less, mobile and online advertisers could see other advantages. The company Adobe, on its digital marketing blog, notes that Super Bowl advertisers can personalize their messages and target a more measurable and affluent audience by focusing on mobile.

On-air advertisers also hope to benefit from people having devices with them. For example, during ads for major brands like Pepsi and Disney, a small logo on the screen will prompt users of Shazam, an app that listens to and recognizes sounds and songs, to open it to get deals or content related to the ad.

Kint, for his part, is mostly hoping for a close game, which could drive traffic. He won’t say which team he is rooting for, though. 

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