Feature

From holograms to wearables: how we'll be watching the Super Bowl in 10 years

The Kansas City Chiefs won its first Super Bowl since 1970 on Sunday (2 February), just a few years after the groundbreaking innovation of color TV programming became the norm in the US. Today, the crystal clear colors of our HD Super Bowl broadcasts are an afterthought; 10 years from now, streaming the game and watching hologram replays may be just as routine.

Wow, what a game. Can you believe the 49ers did that? And then the Chiefs did that!? Andy Reid is probably knee-deep in cheeseburgers right now. Unbelievable. Anyway, let’s take a look at how we'll be watching the Super Bowl 10 years from now.

It’s 2030. You open the door to your friend’s apartment, beer in hand, ready to watch Super Bowl 64.

Doors will probably still exist 10 years from now, but the beer might be gluten free. The party’s requisite wings may be plant-based and there are no plastic cups in sight, but the Super Bowl will still be a tentpole event where friends and family gather to watch the game and its highly anticipated commercials.

What will change is how we watch – or experience – the game and all the surrounding branding. Burgeoning technologies such as 5G, virtual reality and edge computing will reshape the in-home fan experience into a multi-screen, personalized event.

Internet-delivered broadcast TV

It’s just about kickoff, and by now you’ve found your seat on the crowded couch. Your friend says, ‘TV on,’ and up comes the game.

Fox, CBS and NBC rotate the Super Bowl broadcast yearly as part of their rights deal with the NFL, which expires in 2022. By 2030, maybe Amazon will stream the game, a step up from its current Thursday Night Football casts.

Instead, maybe an aggressive upstart like DAZN will nab rights, or NBC will take the game to its digital platform, Peacock. Or Locast will be legalized, and everyone will ditch their antennas in favor of IP-delivered broadcast TV, the same way they’ve ditched their cable boxes for Netflix and Hulu.

Crowds, whether at home or in bars, will still gather around the big screen, says Jesse Redniss, general manager of WarnerMedia’s Innovation Lab. But in 10 years, broadcast TV will be streamed.

“Ten years from now, everything is going to be IP-delivered,” says Redniss.

Live events, especially sports, have been the one thing keeping the traditional TV business afloat amid disruption from streaming services. Brian Ring, principal analyst at Ring Digital, says in 10 years streaming services should have the technical ability to host 100 million Super Bowl viewers at once, but the NFL would only consider a streamer as a serious partner if it has significant scale.

“I would not be surprised to see a free streaming footprint that almost matches an [over-the-air] footprint,” says Ring.

Streaming the Super Bowl is becoming increasingly popular. In 2019, 98.2 people watched the game the old fashioned way, according to Nielsen. But the average minute audience, which accounts for streaming, came in at an additional 2.6 million viewers, up 31% from the year prior.

You’ve finished reminiscing about the days when you paid upwards of $100 on your cable bill, the game chugs along and now it’s time for the first commercial break.

All the talks of addressable TV advertising don’t make its way to the Super Bowl, where advertisers still value the mass reach, water-cooler effect the game offers. Instead, they take to the second screen to target you.

“We can have mass reach within TV, but most people have their phone with them where we could target them,” says Mary Ann Reilly, senior vice-president, head of North America marketing at Visa.

Enter interactivity

Advertisers will air their big spot to the masses and tag it with a call-to-action asking viewers to stick with the brand on their other devices throughout the game.

“By 10 years, all of these advertisers are going to be experts at navigating people away from the TV and right back into it,” says Ring.

Bloss, 2030’s trendy DTC start-up, just debuted its first TV commercial with a 30-second spot that promises $10 off its eco-friendly chewing gum subscription box service if you play their virtual reality game before the Super Bowl ends.

Luckily your host has a VR headset. You grab it and dive in. After entering all your information (that’s what Bloss is really after, by the way), you virtually chew your way through game and get your prize. The actual game is about to start up again, but you figure you’ll stay within the VR experience for the last few minutes of the quarter.

It’s like sitting in the actual stadium. You’re at the 50 yard line taking in all the sights and sounds. The only thing that doesn’t match are the sponsors. The VR stadium is an addressable medium, so your stadium sponsor is a sneaker brand, while someone else across the country is seeing a soft drink company.

If you’re lucky enough (and have deep enough wallets) to physically be at the game, your wearable tech will guide your in-stadium experience.

Chris Weil, chief executive officer of Momentum Worldwide, says the low latency of a 5G network will make live events more immersive and interactive.

“Let’s say it’s a Niners/Chiefs rematch in 2030,” says Weil, “and as you enter the stadium, the ‘connected clothing’ you’re wearing ushers you through a personalized brand experience that is catered to you and the team you are supporting.”

Greg Paull, co-founder and principal at consulting firm R3, says this proliferation of technology creates new avenues for brands, and it means fans will engage with the game in personalized environments both in-stadium and out.

But all that new tech-enabled supply could make traditional event and stadium sponsorships less valuable.

“For example, there could be a VR sideline pass that allows you to ‘be’ right on the sideline,” says Paull. “That experience will be owned by a sponsor that is completely different from the sponsor of the event or stadium. In much the way entertainment brand licensing has sliced the same brand into multiple channels for consumption, the same will be true for events.”

Unbound by time slot

You’d like to be around actual people now, so you re-enter reality and pass the headset off to the next person. The game goes on. A touchdown here, a field goal there, and a flag over there for a personal foul that has everyone scratching their head trying to understand the NFL’s latest player-protection rule change.

Now it’s time for the halftime show. A TikTok star, who right now is only in third grade, is about to take center stage. But the youngling has been all over social media with the halftime sponsor promoting the show, giving other brands plenty of opportunities to sneak in.

“The halftime show is no longer bound by time slot,” says Rebecca Paoletti, chief executive officer and co-founder of video agency CakeWorks, referring to social posts from Jennifer Lopez and Shakira that have given the show’s sponsor, Pepsi, an extra boost.

But that proliferation of social content will give other advertisers the chance to organically reach the Super Bowl, and the performer’s, audiences.

“Any brand can comment,” says Paoletti.

New holograms, same brands

Halftime’s over. The game is close, and you’re in a betting mood. You and a group of like-minded spenders head to a different room to watch betting-centric cast of the game.

The Super Bowl broadcast won’t go away, but instead there will be peripheral viewing options. Maybe your favorite streamer on Twitch has a stream of the game. Or maybe Fox will have a gambling-themed stream that could feature data overlays seen on some secondary broadcasts today.

You’ll be placing live bets on your cell phone. Thanks to 5G, you won’t have to worry about any lag between devices. What you see on the TV screen is in sync with your bets.

Visa is the official payment partner for the NFL through 2025, and it wants to be wherever the fans are, whether that’s in-stadium or eventually in VR. Visa already allows legal gambling transactions on its network, so why not power the betting experience?

Redniss says brands have an opportunity to power emerging spaces, such as betting platforms, instead of simply slapping an ad down.

“[Are] you inserting a 15- or 30-second ad experience into it? Or are you helping to power and enable some of this new technology, and experience alongside the technology provider and the storytellers,” says Redniss.

That could even include holograms.

You’ve just won a $200 bet. Stoked, you go to the kitchen to relive the magic with anyone who may have missed your triumphant moment.

Standing over the kitchen table, you wave your hands and bring up a three-dimensional replay of your money-making play. With just a few gestures, you can zoom in and out, spin it around, and play it over and over again to your heart’s content. Virtually etched along the bottom of the digital field, it says: “Powered by Bloss.”

Redness attributes this capability to “volumetric capture” of live events, similar to Intel’s True View. Advanced camera technology, 5G-enabled stadiums and edge computing will combine to capture a 360-degree view of the Super Bowl, and all the different ways of consuming the game will put AR replays, including holograms, in the hand of individual viewers.

The game is finally over. Money in virtual wallet and discounted gum on the way, you say your goodbyes and head to your connected car.

Your nephew is a fan of the winning team, and since Super Bowl merch is always immediately available you buy some on your ride home. You place your order through the car’s voice controls, and then you place your hand on the center console. Your car reads your palm print and validates your purchase.

“All of those mediums, the connected car, biometric payments… that is where things are going,” says Reilly. “So that's where multi-sensory branding comes in because you need to keep the brand alive when you don't necessarily see it or touch it with a physical card.”

The future is scary, so click here to watch this year's Super Bowl ads and distract yourself from the great unknown of what's to come

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