The Super Bowl is the TV industry’s biggest annual event. What if it became several?
Walt Disney is considering a Super Bowl “mega-cast” that could create different broadcasts of the gridiron classic tailored to specific types of audiences, says Jimmy Pitaro, the company’s chairman of ESPN and sports content, during remarks made Thursday evening. The technique is something Disney has been experimenting with frequently in recent years. Disney will get rights to broadcast two Super Bowls — the first time in years it will have access to the Big Game — as part of a new rights deal struck with the NFL that will last through the 2033 season.
“It’s premature to talk about any ideas that we have for our first Super Bowl. It’s several years away,” says Pitaro (above, pictured). “But I think the idea of doing an alternate broadcast is something that, certainly, we will want to talk to the league about.”
Last year, Disney devised a range of bespoke telecasts of a Wild Card game, one tailored for younger viewers on the company’s Freeform cable outlet. It has created informal “viewing party” sessions on ESPN2 that often draw sports celebrities. And it crafted a streaming version of the event on broadband hub ESPN Plus aimed at viewers interested in sports betting, complete with data feeds. In 2019, ESPN aired a version of the NFL Draft tailored for sports aficionados, while ABC ran one aimed at general audiences that featured music and was hosted in part by “Good Morning Anchor” Robin Roberts. The company has also tried its hand at “mega-casting” a handful of “Monday Night Football” games on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.
A “mega-cast” could have interesting ramifications for the Super Bowl, a massive media event that generated a record $545 million in in-game commercials, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. Imagine a scenario under which potential sponsors might target narrower audiences that had more defined characteristics and interests. The idea might even make Super Bowl ads, which cost more than $5 million for 30 seconds of air time, more affordable (whether Disney would even consider selling cheaper Super Bowl ads remains to be seen).
Any potential idea for shaking up a Super Bowl broadcast would be done in consultation with the NFL, says Pitaro.
For its part, the league is interested. “We’re excited about it,” says Hans Schroeder, chief operating officer of NFL Media, who was also present during the media conference.