As advertisers continue to raise the bar with this year’s innovative Super Bowl ads, Fox Sports is planning some new bells and whistles to spruce up its in-game coverage as well.
This year’s shiny new toy is Be the Player, which can generate a POV perspective of any player on the field, using 38 different 5K cameras placed around Houston’s NRG Stadium. Fox Sports has teamed up with Intel for the enhancement, which places a virtual camera at the player’s eye line.
“We’re capturing enough data from an array of cameras around the field, that we don’t have to put a camera inside the helmet. That’s what allows us to be able to take the actual perspective, not computer-generated, this is the actual video, that we can put ourselves in any perspective from any player’s helmet on the field,” said Fox Sports president, COO and executive producer Eric Shanks.
As for how frequently it will be deployed during the game, Shanks said it will be up to Troy Aikman, who will be calling the game with Joe Buck. “Troy has been involved in helping craft this technology, to make sure it is what he wants to see, and that it’s accurate. On a play, if Troy wants us to put it through this technology, we’re going to do it, to help him tell a story. So I would imagine maybe a few times during the game,” said Shanks.
This is Fox’s eighth Super Bowl, and over the years Shanks has figured out what the game’s 100-million-plus viewers do, and don’t, want to see. “We really don’t do a ton of Xs and Os. We go out there wanting to entertain, enlighten, tell great stories in a fun way. The Super Bowl is a day where we try to do things that shine a light on unifying the country. It’s not just this year. If you look back at our past Super Bowls, it is this real patriotic, unifying holiday, and we take it seriously,” said Shanks.
Shanks will also be tasked with making sure that he squeezes in all of the game’s ad pods—brands have shelled out close to $5 million per spot—and integrations. “The creativity and integration that our advertising partners are looking for in these things, every year their expectations are higher and higher. They want to break through, and do something unique. And so, the amount of time we’ve spent with brands and clients making sure that we help them achieve their goals with the integrations and live components, that gets greater each Super Bowl,” he said. “In the game itself, there’s actually very few enhancements, there’s probably only a few things in-game that you need to do. But you’ve got to do them right.”
While Shanks told reporters last month Super Bowl ratings have “become a little bit bulletproof,” and are more reliant on the star power and match-ups rather than the quality of the gameplay itself, that doesn’t mean he’ll be any less nervous on Monday morning to hear how many viewers his telecast pulled in.
“The worry is only, are you going to be pleasantly surprised? Because I don’t think anybody worries that the Super Bowl is not going to be massive as far as ratings go. It’s just, are you going to wake up and be pleasantly surprised and is everybody going to be high-fiving because A) we did a good job with the broadcast and B) the viewers rewarded us and the viewers rewarded the game?” he said.
Fox’s 2014 telecast was watched by a then-record 112.2 million viewers, even though the Seattle Seahawks blew out the Denver Broncos 43-8. Last year’s game, Super Bowl 50 on CBS, was the third most-watched U.S. telecast of all time, with 111.9 million viewers. The 2015 Super Bowl on NBC is still the record-holder, with 114.4 million total viewers.
While Fox’s Super Bowl pregame will start at 2 p.m., just as it did last time, Fox is staring its Super Bowl programming at 11 a.m., with NFL Films’ Road to the Super Bowl. At noon, Fox will air a special Super Bowl edition of Undisputed, its FS1 daily sports show with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe. Then Fox Super Bowl Kickoff will air at 1 p.m.