Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

NBC Puts the Super Bowl on the Web Because It Thinks You’ll Watch It on TV

The Super Bowl is the most valuable show on TV. Which is why NBC can charge a reported $3.5 million for a 30-second spot during the Giants-Patriots game this Sunday.

But if you watch the game on the Web, your eyeballs are worth a whole lot less. NBC, which is streaming the entire thing for the first time ever, will be lucky to get anything near a million dollars for that same ad when it runs online.

So why is Comcast’s broadcast network putting the game on the Web, period? Isn’t this the classic analog-dollars-to-digital-dimes trade that Big Media strives so hard to avoid?

Nope, says Rick Cordella, who runs digital for NBC Sports. The network assumes that nearly every eyeball — and every ad dollar — that it gets from the Web this week will be a bonus, because whoever watches online is simultaneously watching on a big TV, the way football is supposed to be watched.

This is supposed to be the classic “second screen” experience that Twitter’s Dick Costolo and so many other digital folks are excited about.

And that makes plenty of sense to me. Many TV guys have gotten plenty comfortable with the idea of streaming their most valuable live sports events online, for free. In most of those cases, the general assumption is that anyone who’s watching on the Web is someone who can’t watch the game on a TV to begin with — see the CBS/Turner Sports livestreams of the NCAA March Madness tournament.

And in NBC’s case, it is packing the Webcast full of extra camera angles and other goodies, including a feature that will let you rewatch every Super Bowl commercial once it’s aired. The assumption is that you’re holding the TV remote in one hand, and controlling your laptop with another.

NBC already does a version of this with its Sunday Night Football broadcasts during the regular season, and the network says it draws between 200,000 and 300,000 unique viewers per game (that’s the source of that Vikings-Saints screenshot, above).

Meanwhile, those broadcasts are the networks’ best-performing shows by a long shot, so it doesn’t seem to have slowed them down. The NFL, meanwhile, reports that Web companion streams of the Thursday night games it shows on its own channel averaged 450,000 uniques.

So Cordella argues that putting the biggest TV show of the year online, for free, is really no big deal. But I’m pretty sure that this attitude isn’t shared by everyone in the TV business, and we might hear a bit about that today at the D: Dive Into Media conference. Curious to see what ESPN boss John Skipper thinks, for starters.


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