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Volume 22 No. 43
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Extending the lifespan of Super Bowl halftime

The NFL is in the midst of negotiations for an intriguing rights deal that is only tangentially related to football. The league is shopping a 90-minute documentary on the making of the Super Bowl halftime show to its network partners for a late April showing.

It might not be the “Thursday Night Football” package, but league executives have engaged CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC in discussions. NFL Network holds the rights to re-air the documentary after it airs with one of the league’s broadcast partners.

The documentary, which is rife with coverage of Katy Perry preparing for the show, is part of the NFL’s effort to broaden its appeal beyond football fans.

The Super Bowl’s halftime show has proved to be an even bigger TV draw than the game itself. In 2014, 115.3 million viewers watched Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Fox. Last month, 118.5 million viewers tuned into NBC to watch Perry, Missy Elliott and Lenny Kravitz.

The NFL is shopping a behind-the-scenes doc on Katy Perry and pals to network partners.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
NFL Media and Mandalay Sports Group is producing the documentary in association with Perry. Hamish Hamilton is directing the documentary, which is carrying the working title, “The Making of a Super Bowl Halftime Show.”

Mandalay Sports Media’s Mike Tollin said that name is likely to change before it airs.

The idea of producing a documentary around the Super Bowl halftime show was birthed last year just a week after Super Bowl XLVIII ended in New Jersey. Several of the NFL’s top media executives gathered in a conference room to figure out how to give the game’s halftime show a life beyond Super Bowl Sunday, where months of preparation are turned into a 12 1/2-minute performance.

Brian Rolapp, the NFL’s executive vice president of media, opened the meeting by asking, “What can we do to make this have a longer lifespan than the 12 1/2 live minutes?” Executives in the room, including Mark Quenzel, NFL Network’s senior vice president of programming and production, and Ron Semiao, its vice president of programming, quickly focused on the idea of a documentary that shows how the halftime show was produced.

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SBJ Podcast:
John Ourand and hockey writer Ian Thomas discuss ESPN claiming the U.S. rights to the 2016 World Cup of Hockey last week.

“It’s never really been done before to show how this actually gets put together,” Semiao said. “When we came up with this idea and everybody was into it, it was something that we mentioned to every artist that we were considering for the halftime show. Frankly, every artist embraced the idea because of its uniqueness.”

The NFL almost certainly will make a similar documentary part of its contract with a musical act at next year’s Super Bowl 50, which will be held in Santa Clara, Calif., Semiao said. Beyond next year, the league likely will look at other ways to promote the halftime show.

“I’m not sure you do it for every one because at a certain point, the cat’s out of the bag in terms of what the real hurdles of the halftime show are,” Semiao said. “Super Bowl 50 could be a good story simply because it is Super Bowl 50. Then we’ll just see from there.”

Producers started shooting footage for the Perry documentary in October, with the singer’s first creative meeting. The crew used seven cameras and came up with around 100 hours of material that will be edited into 72 minutes. Semiao remarked that producers were given more access than he was expecting. For example, a trailer from the documentary shows Perry pacing in a bathroom at University of Phoenix Stadium, waiting for the first half to end so she can begin her performance.

Tollin predicted that Elliott would emerge as a star of the documentary. “Her role might be short in duration, but it is impactful,” he said. “She is going to steal some hearts.”

As for the dancing sharks that became all the rage on social media, Tollin said, “There is backstage footage of the sharks. That’s all I can really say about them right now.”

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

VIRTUAL REALITY

‘It’s not that far away from us. It’s actually pretty close’

So far, I’ve seen more buzz about virtual reality this year than in the previous 20 years combined.

I was skeptical of 3-D television. Who wants to watch a game wearing 3-D glasses? I haven’t tried VR, but I have the same skepticism. Who wants to wear that VR contraption, even if it does transport you to a courtside seat?

I took my skepticism to Oculus’ Jason Rubin and asked why virtual reality has better growth prospects than 3-D television.

“VR is very different from television,” Rubin said. “Fundamentally, 3-D was augmenting television in a way that wasn’t compelling to people. When you put on a VR device and you are there, it is an utterly different experience. It’s not a gimmick thrown on top of something that exists. It’s a very different experience when you’re there.”

So when will we see it take off?

“It’s happening,” Rubin said. “All of this stuff is coming together. In the next year or two, we’re going to see it all just kind of happen. It’s not that far away from us. It’s actually pretty close.”

— John Ourand

SOCIAL MEDIA UPDATE

Fox takes NASCAR video to Facebook

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a test Facebook is running with the NFL to develop advertising strategies around video. While NFL officials praised the test, big media companies, like Fox, said they were more hesitant and hadn’t signed up for it yet.

The afternoon that the story came out, Pete Vlastelica, executive vice president of digital for Fox Sports, tweeted at me, saying, “Here’s an update on today’s story. We’re selling Facebook video.”

t turns out that Fox Sports has become the second publisher to test video ads on the social media site. The NFL was first. Fox is using its Facebook video strategy to promote NASCAR video clips under its “@ the Buzzer” brand.
Fox started its test the weekend before the Daytona 500. The clips, which include interviews and highlights, have Nationwide’s brand on screen and a bar across the bottom that says, “Presented by Nationwide.”

Fox’s “@ the Buzzer” is designed to attract younger viewers, which is a reason why the company chose to use its videos in the Facebook test. It’s still too early to talk about results, but Fox Sports’ executives seem happy so far.
It’s little surprise that Fox got involved. In the story, Vlastelica said he was getting pressure from his bosses to find a way to monetize Facebook video, because they were seeing the sheer number of views Facebook was producing.

“There are serious conversations about making a significant investment in programming for the Facebook platform and, generally, beginning to set aside production and programming budgets for emerging platforms,” he said.

STREAMING NORTH

Blue Jays avoid the roadblocks

Last week’s story detailing the stalled local streaming negotiations between Major League Baseball and regional sports networks said that none of the 29 U.S.-based teams will have local streaming services on Opening Day, and most are skeptical that streaming will be available at all during the season.

Local streaming is not as muddled in Canada. After the story’s publication, Rogers Media’s senior director of content strategy, Anthony Antonelli, emailed to say local streaming is alive in Toronto.

Antonelli: “I wanted to point out that there is one team/RSN currently offering in-market MLB games via TV Everywhere — the Blue Jays and Sportsnet. All 162 regular-season Blue Jays games are available on an authenticated basis on Sportsnet’s TV Everywhere site and app, Sportsnet Now.”

— John Ourand