What If…The Super Bowl Launched New Tech?

The Super Bowl has always been a huge event television day for many reasons…and not just because it is the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption after Thanksgiving. It’s also the ideal showcase for new technologies. In honor of the big game this Sunday, here are some fascinating firsts from the past 50 years and a preview of this year’s debuts:

  • Super Bowl I (1967): The only Super Bowl simulcast in the US by two networks: NBC had the rights to broadcast AFL games nationally while CBS held the same rights to NFL games. Both networks were allowed to televise the game. Also, the NFL and holder of the only known video recording of the game are currently battling over its release.
  • Super Bowl III (1969): First game to officially bear the name, Super Bowl. While the Orange Bowl was sold out for the game, the live telecast was not shown in Miami due to both leagues’ unconditional blackout rules in place at that time. J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!
  • Super Bowl VII (1973): The first Super Bowl televised live in the host city after the lifting of the unconditional blackout rules.
  • Super Bowl XII (1978): First use of an Electronic Palette graphics system (created by CBS and Ampex) for a painting-like aspect to visual graphics including the game intro, starting lineups and commercial break bumpers. CBS also unveiled their “Action Track” which showed, during replays. the trail of a football being kicked. CBS also unveiled the “Action Track” which showed the trail of a football that had been kicked during replays.
  • Super Bowl XV (1981): The first Super Bowl to provide closed captioning for the hearing impaired.
  • Super Bowl XXX (1996): Some proxy servers blocked the game’s web site because the game’s Roman numeral (XXX) was associated with pornography sites.
  • Super Bowl XXXIII (1999): The starting lineups were shown using a virtual TV metaphor. To viewers, it appeared as if the end zone opened up and a giant TV came out of the ground. The virtual TV displayed video that announced the starting lineups.
  • Super Bowl XXXIV (2000): The first Super Bowl to be aired in HD (720p) and 5.1 Dolby Digital.
  • Super Bowl XXXVI (2002): The first Super Bowl presented in 480p enhanced definition widescreen format.
  • Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004): The infamous Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson halftime “wardrobe malfunction.” After the game, Jackson’s name was searched more than any term in Internet history which contributed to the creation of a comprehensive site dedicated exclusively to video now known as YouTube (founded Feb 15, 2005)
  • Super Bowl XLII (2008): Over four days, Phoenix TV station KTVK broadcast a live video webcam stream from outside the stadium covering the pre- and post-game activities.
  • Super Bowl XLIII (2009): The first NFL Films home video release released on Blu-ray. It was sold exclusively through Amazon.
  • Super Bowl XLIV (2010): Sirius XM satellite radio carried 14 game feeds in ten languages.
  • Super Bowl XLV (2011): Super Bowl debut (in Cowboys Stadium) of world’s largest high-definition video screen: a $40 million, 600-ton video board with 25,000 square feet of displays measuring 72 feet tall and 160 feet long.
  • Super Bowl XLVI (2012): First Super Bowl legally streamed online.
  • Super Bowl XLVII (2013): NFL Mobile from Verizon live stream attracted three million unique viewers to the video player, up 43% from the previous year. Viewers generated nearly 10 million live video streams, up more than 100% YoY, resulting in a record 114.4 million minutes streamed.
  • Super Bowl XLVIII (2014): First use of beacons to provide personalized mobile ads based on physical location.
  • Super Bowl XLIX (2015): Largest social media engagement – 265 million Facebook related posts + 28 million tweets. Half of the 66 commercials shown during the game featured a hashtag. The first game/site specific mobile app for a Super Bowl. Zebra Technologies partnered with the NFL to introduce radio-frequency identification (RFID) transmitters to track each player’s movement. Trackers were placed inside the shoulder pads to measure distance travelled, speed and positioning. Also, the most watched television program in US history, attracting more than 114.4 million viewers, the fifth time in six years a new record was set.

And for Super Bowl L (2016), here are a few of the firsts:

  • Cameras: 70 cameras will be used to film the game, 40 more than in 2015.
  • EyeVision 360:  A new replay camera that will freeze on any moment and revolve completely around the play for a first-person point of view at any point on the field. Data will be captured with 5K resolution cameras, the highest resolution ever used to film a Super Bowl. To make this work, 36 cameras are being hung along the top deck of Levi’s Stadium. They are bunched toward the red zone at around the 25 yard line. “The idea is that these cameras are looking at the whole field,” says Ken Aagaard, Executive Vice President at CBS Sports Operations and Engineering.
  • Pylon Cameras: Used during the current season but never before in a Super Bowl, two high-resolution cameras with microphones will be built into each pylon to provide a field-level view of the game in 2K resolution.
  • New Super Bowl app: In addition to the Levi’s Stadium app (watch video replays, order food, check a bathroom line, find better parking or explore the venue), an additional app will allow people at the game to view a Super Bowl commercial once it airs on television, a live camera so attendees can see celebrities who are at the stadium, and express pickup for merchandise. Given the stadium features 40 gigabits per second of Internet bandwidth, the user experience is expected to be robust.
  • Social Media: Facebook has unveiled a new feature that allows people to view live stats, comments from friends, news stories and more by searching for the game. Twitter will also have special emojis for the game and a separate tab for the game in the site’s “Moments” feature, which allows fans to follow tweets about live events, including sports, by clicking on the lightning bolt icon.

…and the home of the brave. PLAY BALL!