NBC Should Make the Super Bowl Social

Last Updated Jan 28, 2009 2:47 PM EST

Ever since the inauguration of President Obama, I've been waiting for NBC to tell the world that it was going to use Facebook Connect, or a similar platform, to do for Super Bowl viewing what CNN.com and Facebook Connect did for the inauguration.

I'm still waiting.

What did CNN and Facebook do? On inauguration day, they partnered on the TV viewing model of the future, particularly for big, live events. Facebook users who went to the CNN.com/Facebook site that day could simultaneously stream the event and interact online with their Facebook friends within one screen. The result? At least 1.5 million status updates by Facebook friends to each other over this special, one-day only service, with an average of 4,000 updates per minute. That's a lot of updates, and a lot of traffic.

Why do I think this is the future of big-event TV viewing? Because it's already happening, with or without a forward-thinking cable net, and one of the premiere social networks, to make it happen. It's now the TV networks' job to capitalize on it.

We all know now that if you go on Twitter during any big happening, from a plane crash to the inauguration, you'll find that Americans are craving group-watching experiences, perhaps with a remote in one hand and a mouse in the other. People want to share their thoughts, and see what others are saying, and that will certainly be no less true of the Super Bowl than it was of the inauguration.

It's still possible that NBC will announce that it will indeed have a live social component to its Super Bowl coverage. Hulu, its online video joint venture with News Corp., has a relationship with Facebook Connect, and, of course, MySpace, which could presumably mimic Facebook, is owned by News Corp. Maybe the network wants to, but the mighty NFL is standing in its way. Or maybe NBC is afraid that such an application would steal viewership from TV, where advertisers once again are spending millions of dollars for 30 seconds of air time. While that's speculation, one thing is certain: if there's no official stream-and-social site for the Super Bowl this year, there will be one in 2010.
  • Catharine Taylor

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