Aaron Magness plans to watch the Super Bowl this weekend on his 55-inch screen television, with an iPhone in one hand and an iPad at his hip.
For the 34-year-old marketing executive, this weekend’s game is only part of the fun. Interacting with friends about what’s happening on the field -- and with those TV commercials -- will keep Magness tapped into Twitter and Facebook as well.
“I can easily armchair quarterback on a much larger scale,” said Magness, a vice president of marketing for online eyewear company Coastal Contacts Inc. in Vancouver. “Instead of telling my friends next to me, ‘I can’t believe he called that timeout,’ now I can tell 2,000 followers.”
The proliferation of tablets and smartphones has combined with the rifeness of social media to spark a flurry of online activity during televised games. Advertisers such as Coca-Cola Co. and Volkswagen AG have taken notice, turning to YouTube and Twitter to generate buzz and stretch the $3.5 million on average they had to pay for a 30-second spot on Comcast Corp.’s NBC Super Bowl telecast.
“There’s a concerted effort to create more value out of the advertising during, but also after the actual event,” Radha Subramanyam, senior vice president of media analytics for media-viewership tracker Nielsen, said in an interview. It’s interactive TV in a way that was never quite imagined, she said.
“Especially for event television, we find the No. 1 thing that people are doing online is some form of social-media engagement,” Subramanyam said.
The biggest event comes Feb. 5, when 115 million people are predicted by Brad Adgate of Horizon Media Inc. to tune in for the rematch of the New York Giants and New England Patriots in U.S. professional football’s championship game. The Super Bowl is typically the most-watched U.S. broadcast of the year.
The last time the Giants and Patriots met in a Super Bowl, in 2008, tablets were barely used and Apple Inc.’s iPhone was newly introduced. Twitter hadn’t hit the mainstream, and TV watchers got on Facebook from clunkier computers. It’s a different world today, said Adam Cahan, chief executive officer at IntoNow, a companion screen application owned by Yahoo! Inc.
“Tablets changed the world because of the way people are using them constantly,” Cahan said in an interview. “The iPad experience is one that marries itself incredibly well to television.”
An estimated 144 million Americans own tablet computers or smartphones, said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics LLC. Of those, 40 percent use the devices daily while watching television, according to Nielsen. Of that tally, half of the tablet owners and 42 percent of the smartphone users also visit social sites such as those run by Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. while watching TV, Nielsen said.
“There’s no going back now from the fact that the Super Bowl is truly a two-screen experience,” Krishna Subramanian, chief marketing officer of Velti Plc, a provider of mobile marketing and advertising technology, said in a statement.
A Velti poll conducted by Harris Interactive last month showed almost 60 percent of mobile users plan to look at or use their devices during the game. “Mobile is the second screen that completes the full circle of user engagement -- turning advertising into content,” Subramanian said.
YouTube ‘Ad Blitz’
YouTube, the video-posting service owned by Google Inc., is promoting an “Ad Blitz” program that lets Super Bowl viewers follow along during the game online, replaying their favorite commercials once they’ve aired on TV. Last year about 5 percent of YouTube traffic the day after Super Bowl was about ads and almost 13 percent of those views were through mobile devices, according to Google.
“This year we expect mobile to play an even greater role,” Dan Schock, Google’s retail industry director, said in an interview. “Mobile traffic on YouTube has tripled from a year ago. They see about 600 million views a day on mobile YouTube and so I would imagine we’ll have a lot of multitasking going on during the game.”
Apple’s iPad made up 58 percent of the global tablet market as of the fourth quarter, while tablets running on Google’s Android operating system accounted for 39 percent, according to Strategy Analytics. The iPhone is the single best-selling smartphone. The Android operating system, which is made available by Google to multiple handset makers, is more widely used, commanding about half the smartphone market.
Oregon native Joey Keeran, who doesn’t closely follow either Super Bowl team, said he will probably keep his iPhone available to peruse the Twitter commentary about commercials.
“A lot of the time I’ll have to remind myself to watch the game instead of what everybody is tweeting,” Keeran said.
Twitter, the San Francisco-based microblogging service that lets users send 140-character messages to whomever chooses to care, boasts more than 100 million users.
“One of the reasons we’re seeing social media during a TV event” is because of smartphones, said Rishab Ghosh, co-founder of San Francisco-based Topsy Labs Inc., which runs a website that searches data on Twitter. “You wouldn’t really go to your computer and do it.”
The week the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Denver Broncos in a National Football League playoff game last month, 1.5 million Twitter posts mentioned Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. The reaction to his game-winning touchdown pass set a Twitter sports record, the company said in a Jan. 13 blog post.
The NFL, which once fined Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco $25,000 for using Twitter during a 2010 preseason game when he played for the Cincinnati Bengals, is now getting the message. The league temporarily loosened its social-media policy for the Jan. 29 Pro Bowl in Hawaii, where players were encouraged to use Twitter during the game. The league normally prohibits players from using Twitter from 90 minutes before kickoff until after they finish postgame media obligations.
For the Super Bowl, newspaper USA Today and Facebook, the world’s largest social network, created a voting application for users to weigh in on the commercials. Menlo Park, California-based Facebook, which this week filed to raise $5 billion in the largest Internet initial public offering on record, had 425 million users who accessed its mobile service in December, according to the IPO filing.
Last year, more than 300 million people watched Super Bowl ads online, almost triple the number that watch the game on TV, according to Google.
Social media is becoming the main companion for television, Nielsen’s Subramanyam said.
It’s “a very symbiotic happy marriage,” she said.