I would argue that the Super Bowl is the only mass market vehicle left in today's world and that these other events, though certainly strong from a buzz generation standpoint, are no longer examples of appointment viewing.
TiVo and other DVRs are changing the way the audience views these events. While a Super Bowl party is still common, the once prevalent "Oscar's party" appears to be a dying fad. I don't know of any Grammy parties, per se, but I know a lot of people used to watch them from home on Sunday night to see the performances and check out the stars.
Now you don't have to be at home, nor do you have to be at home on Sunday night. You set the TiVo to pick it up and you turn the four-hour plus affairs into a one-hour special either later in the evening (for us left coasters) or a Monday night viewing option. You don't miss out on the water-cooler discussion at all because you can read all about it online when you get into work and probably view clips of the most buzzed about moments from your desk.
If appointment viewing is becoming extinct and the Super Bowl is the only opportunity that media has left to make a lasting impression on a mass audience, then what are the second options for large-scale advertising and marketing?
I wonder if the Web can become the best option for reaching a mass audience with a unique, engaging advertising or marketing opportunity that cannot be time shifted or controlled? Is it possible the Yahoo! home page or the MSN home page can become the closest thing to a managed mass market opportunity in today's world of targeting and addressability?
If all television viewing can be shifted, the Web offers a broadcast opportunity that is still dependent on time for the initial exposure, but continues to be offered for repeat viewing to the same, or an expanded, audience. If you run an ad on the home page of Yahoo! or MSN and it performs well, you can still utilize it in other places or even give it a home as an archived placement on your own site.
We've seen that it's easy to give life to a TV unit via the Web and can expand the audience that is exposed to the unit in the long run. The best ads become viral and are forwarded around week to week or can be criticized on sites like Adcritic.com. We've even seen the Web become the birthplace of ads that are not "authorized" by the actual companies. Both Apple and Volkswagen have been the beneficiaries, so to speak, of this type of placement and the audience for these ads rivals anything that could have been purchased in primetime television.
I can't say I profess to have the answer on what will happen, and whether or not the Web can become that mass medium we talk about. I'm not completely sure that any media can be referred to as a mass medium moving forward in today's world, but I am curious as to what you all think.