For Online Giants, Super Bowl Ads, Live Streaming Questions Go Into Overtime

As the sun sets on Super Bowl 50 and the Denver Broncos revel in the spotlight, the endless onslaught of talking-head speculation comes to an end. Most questions have been answered: Peyton Manning’s legacy is secure and Denver’s defense is the best in the league.

But, for online giants like Facebook, Google, Snapchat and Twitter that all courted real dollars from legitimate brands for various iterations of an extended Super Bowl experience, the questions go into overtime.

There was also continued experimentation around live streaming. For this dynamic, rapidly evolving ecosystem that sat on the periphery but relied so heavily on the most-watched TV program in the United States, the question is simply: Who added value? Who added noise? 

Real-Time Super Bowl 50:

The award clearly goes to Snapchat. Despite showing up just prior to kickoff, its Super Bowl 50 Live Story immediately brought the heat with footage of President Obama tossing around the pigskin and Lady Gaga, who joined Snapchat for this, warming up the pipes for her inevitably flawless rendition of the national anthem.



The Worldwide Live Story checked off the need for watch-party action and the global perspective was an unexpectedly nice touch. The editing and publishing speed, simplicity of use and insider access, not to the mention the oft-controversial skippable ads, all impressed and continue to set Snapchat’s Live Story product apart.

Undoubtedly, aided by its ephemeral nature, looking in on a Live Story feels special.

On the flip side, the recently launched and conceptually interesting Facebook Stadium will take time to mature, as it struggled under the weight of the event. Most of its unique value proposition, which is in the ability to filter out friends’ posts, got lost in the clutter of delayed score updates and amateur video inclusions.

And sitting somewhere in between was Twitter. Given its stock price, it needed an MVP performance, and its Moment and well-oiled Trending Topics engine got the jump on the field. Clearly featured and launched well before kickoff, the content stream delivered an expected volume of mixed media from in and around Super Bowl 50, and Pepsi’s Promoted Trend felt organic.

Super Bowl Everywhere (sort of):

This year, not only did the NFL air the Super Bowl on CBS, but the game streamed live on, on mobile devices through a partnership with Verizon and across a host of connected devices. For the first time, the digital stream mirrored the TV airing – most notably matching specific commercial inclusion – which was a nod by the NFL to the changing tides of viewership.

The stream was crisp, if slightly delayed, but functioned without many reported issues. It’s a step in the right direction, although opening the gates to international viewers (without a hefty subscription fee) would certainly match the NFL’s quest for global appeal.

The NFL’s official app also featured near real-time highlight clips. That said, in the context of so many choices and shifting expectations by consumers for skippable or short-form ads, both delivery platforms were unfortunately hampered by lengthy forced pre-roll video ads.

Alternatively, Key and Peele’s Real Talk live stream was an interesting experiment, but ultimately fell flat without any direct Super Bowl relevance, given the lack of NFL rights. However, as with reaction and unboxing videos, and the unquestionable genius of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," there is certainly inherent value for both brands and viewers in a “sidecar” experience of mainstream events if rights issues can be overcome moving forward.       

The End Zone

Super Bowl 50 proved there are legitimately interesting second-screen experiences for consumers to have and brands to align with that don’t simply distract from the main event, but enhance and at times exceed it.  The technical ingenuity, creativity, and innovation on display yesterday was truly incredible.

Despite some snags, it is commendable that brands and media platforms alike continue to forge ahead and test the unproven, even when forced to abruptly shed the “beta” tag on the biggest stage in the world.

Looking ahead to Rio 2016, the global stakes will be higher and the complexity increased. The challenge will lie in sustaining this pace for not one day, but two weeks. And looking even farther out, it is completely within reason that both virtual and augmented reality technologies take a serious foothold in Super Bowl 51.

The real question then will be: How soon until the second screen exceeds the value of the first?

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