Football on a field
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The Super Bowl is huge. The future is leaving it behind.

Source Code

Your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from the future of sports TV, to NFT parties, to the Razzlekhan drama you’d better not miss.

Highlights forever

Happy Super Bowl Sunday to all who celebrate! It’s the biggest TV event of the year, the one day we all watch commercials on purpose. It’s also the last surviving relic of the TV era … and even it can’t stay like this forever.

In many ways, sports have lagged behind the rest of the entertainment industry. Netflix and the other streaming platforms have given us nearly limitless access to shows and movies, on any screen we want, for a single monthly price. You don’t even need to go to theaters to see the latest blockbuster anymore! And yet, if you’re a sports fan, you’re all too accustomed to paying for four separate services just to get your team’s games … only to discover that thanks to the vagaries of blackout rules, location restrictions and subscription tiers, you can’t watch them anyway.

Live sports are the most valuable IP in the entertainment industry, because live sports provide one of the few shared experiences left in our culture. So the rights to broadcast and stream that content, on any platform, continue to go through the roof. (NBC paid around $2 billion for the package of NFL games that includes this Super Bowl, for instance.)

But the way viewers watch those games is changing fast. “We’ve conditioned this younger generation to purely consume highlights and clips with funny memes, funny captions, funny comments, all of it really optimized for Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Snapchat,” Bo Han, the CEO of Buzzer, told me on the latest Source Code podcast. (Buzzer is a new service that’s basically trying to become a livestreaming service for sports highlights.) Fans now follow players, not teams; they’re diving into fantasy leagues and mobile betting; and they want to experience everything in real time with their friends. Sports are still central to culture, but the number of people willing to watch a three-hour game is starting to dwindle.

That means games are atomizing, in a way. “The game” is no longer the right unit of sports; now it’s the possession, the play, the moment. And like Spotify ingesting a universe of music and spitting personalized playlists back to users, sports broadcasters are learning to do the same. You can imagine a world in which you get a personalized feed of NFL highlights based on who’s on your fantasy team, or a service that knows you follow Steph Curry on Instagram and notifies you every time he’s having a big game. As sports gambling continues to boom, Han said, “If you placed a $20 bet on the 3.5-point spread between the Knicks and the Lakers, I’m only going to alert you when it’s a 4-point game.”

In the last few years, leagues and teams have become much more open to sharing highlights online, and are even starting to explore different ways of broadcasting the game itself. Just look at the Nickelodeon broadcast of an NFL playoff game, or the super popular “Manningcast,” an alternate way to watch “Monday Night Football.”

Right now, Han told me, the Super Bowl defies all those trends. But he pointed out that like all live sports, the TV-viewing demographic is old (about 50, for last year’s game) and getting older. “Yes, they are the dominant force in this industry,” Han said. “But they also have this similar demographic problem: How do you engage with the next generation live?”

If you want a glimpse at what the future looks like, just change channels and flip on the 2022 Winter Olympics. Standard TV viewership is way down, but Peacock said it’s seeing record viewership for this year’s games. And it’s treating that audience very differently. “If you’re an Olympics fan,” said Jim Denney, NBCUniversal’s chief product officer for direct to consumer products, “you want someplace you can go and feel like, ‘OK, all my stuff is here.’” Want to watch the NBC or USA feed of the games? Go for it. Want to drill down and watch an endless stream of bobsled races? That’s there, too. Want to watch an event that ended an hour, a day, a week ago, because this year’s time differences make watching hard? Easy.

Most people, Denney said, are happy just to flip on the network-curated feed and watch, but for those who want to drill deeper or just watch highlights, Peacock is slicing and dicing the games in every way it can. That’s also how Han said Buzzer is thinking about things: It’s been sending users curated notifications for big Olympics moments, with deep links to the right streaming app. (Because that part’s still complicated.)

The last phase of the streaming revolution was all about on-demand, as more content became available to us any time we wanted to watch. The biggest innovation in live broadcast, and in particular with sports, was just that you could access games without a cable box. Which was something! But now, everyone from the networks to the tech giants is trying to figure out how to turn a live broadcast into a series of shareable, remixable moments, and then spread them like wildfire.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

You tell us

We asked you for your favorite Super Bowl party tips, and, well, you didn’t really have any. Fair enough! It’s been a while, we’re all still readjusting, who even remembers how parties work anyway? So instead, I put the question to a few folks at Protocol, and they were mostly useless, too. Except for Jane Seidel, our digital editor, who had this to say:

“My family hosted a Super Bowl party every year and invited all our church friends over. Like 25 or so people. My dad created a quiz for everyone there with both trivia questions and prop bets: who wins the coin toss, who gets the first field goal, etc. Just printed out on a piece of paper. Tiebreaker is guessing the score at halftime. He spent the game keeping a tally and checking scorecards, and the winner was announced after halftime.

The winner got a giant trophy with a Nerf football attached to the top; they kept it for the year then returned it at the following Super Bowl. It was like, a genuinely coveted item within the group: The winner would have it on display during their time with it, like it was the fucking Stanley Cup or something. This went on for years: like, my entire childhood. I had to replace the Nerf footballs from time to time.”

This is the new bar for Super Bowl parties, as far as I’m concerned. And if you have any tips you forgot, or anything fun you discover this weekend, send it our way!


The global nature of business makes tracking your company's operations trickier than ever before. Overseeing supply chains and an international, dispersed workforce is tough. Maintaining visibility over all aspects of your operations is even tougher. The changing norms of business make location services no longer a "nice to have" but a "need to have" — and at the forefront of the geospatial intelligence revolution is Esri.

Learn more

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The best of everything else

How Telegram became the anti-Facebook — Wired

  • Telegram doesn’t get talked about like Facebook or WhatsApp or even Snapchat, but it’s a hugely popular and powerful app around the world. And its push against censorship and algorithms has led it down a complicated and tricky path.

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The global nature of business makes tracking your company's operations trickier than ever before. Overseeing supply chains and an international, dispersed workforce is tough. Maintaining visibility over all aspects of your operations is even tougher. The changing norms of business make location services no longer a "nice to have" but a "need to have" — and at the forefront of the geospatial intelligence revolution is Esri.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to our tips line, Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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