Super Bowl XLVII: How CBS plans to bring you the big game
What keeps you up at night? For Mike Arnold, the man directing this year's Super Bowl, it's the pistol-formation of the San Francisco 49ers. "We don't see many NFC teams having the AFC package," said Arnold, who will direct his third Super Bowl for CBS. "It's not like New England, who we might see five or six times per year. So I'm thinking at night about San Francisco's read-option and I can't replicate it until it happens."
You know about Jim Nantz and Phil Simms -- the face men for the CBS Sports broadcast that will kickoff around 6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday at the Superdome -- but how you see the game will be dictated by Arnold and coordinating producer Lance Barrow, a longtime CBS hand whose Super Bowl experience dates to 1978, when he served as a spotter for Pat Summerall for Super Bowl XII in New Orleans. On Sunday, Barrow and Arnold will be sitting an arm's length from each other in a production truck about 100 yards from one of the end zones of the Superdome. Arnold is charged with every shot you see, while Barrow picks the replays.
But the two production men can only control so much. Ultimately, most viewers remember a Super Bowl broadcast based on the quality and closeness of the game. The same goes for ratings.
For three consecutive years, the Super Bowl has set a record as the most-watched television show in U.S. history, a major factor being the game was still up for grabs in the final quarter. Will Super Bowl XLVII surpass the current record (held by NBC) of 111.3 million average viewers? This year it will be difficult. Both conference championship games had down viewership from 2011 and neither San Francisco (No. 6) nor Baltimore (the No. 27 TV market) possess pre-made star power at the skill positions (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning etc...) that draws the ultra-casual NFL fan.
"The rating is very important from a pride and a stature standpoint," said CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus. "Financially, it does not affect us because we are not selling the Super Bowl next year. But from a pride standpoint, you want to outdo the year before, so of course I would like the game to have a huge [viewership]. If we don't set a record, I will be disappointed but life will go on."
Asked how he defines a successful broadcast, Arnold said he will consider his work a success if it's not the focal point at the office water cooler on Monday morning. "We don't want people saying, "'Boy, I wish I would have seen this or why didn't we have that,'" Arnold said. "If we've had all the right replays, good graphics and the announcers have been spot-on, that is my definition of a good broadcast."
How will CBS cover the Super Bowl on Sunday? Here's the breakdown:
What's the CBS formula for keeping a massive and diverse audience, some of whom will watch their only football game for the year? "A mix of football and entertaining," said Super Bowl Today producer Eric Mann. "Hopefully, they'll be some laughs and some newsworthy segments, too. Each hour we hope to give you a sprinkling of stuff."
CBS's live pregame coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET from Super Bowl Park at Jackson Square. The talent is familiar: James Brown, Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason, Shannon Sharpe and Bill Cowher, along with Greg Gumbel. Reporters Lesley Visser and Tracy Wolfson will also be featured. The splashy addition is Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who was added because CBS brass was impressed by Matthews' personality during the year. Matthews also gives them currency as well as an expert on the defensive side of the football.
Many of the pregame features are what you'd expect: Brown, who draws his seventh Super Bowl assignment as a pregame host, will interview Jim and John Harbaugh as part of a feature on the family. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco sat down with Esiason while Sharpe interviews former teammate Ray Lewis. Marino was assigned San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick while Cowher will interview Niners tight end Vernon Davis.
The show will also have features on Ravens running back Ray Rice, Niners defensive stars Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and Justin Smith; a profile of Colts coach Chuck Pagano; an examination of player safety and the future of the league; a promising piece on a high school football player who survived the July 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and a look at the life of the Ravens current senior advisor to player development, O.J. Brigance, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease), which has robbed the former player of speech and body movement. CBS Evening News host Scott Pelley will interview President Barack Obama at 4:30 p.m. ET from the White House. The interview is expected to run about 10-15 minutes.
Prior to the pregame show at 11 a.m. ET, CBS will air the NFL Films production of a Road to the Super Bowl. Road is the longest-running (43 years) annual sports special and the show is produced from more than 1.7 million feet of game footage and culled from 400 hours of audio from 100 coaches and players. That's followed by a one-hour special at noon ET hosted by Wynton Marsalis on the city of New Orleans and the annual Simms All-Iron Team program (1 p.m. ET).
Nantz will call his third title game (2007 and 2010) while Sunday marks the seventh Super Bowl for Simms, which ranks him behind only John Madden among Super Bowl television analysts. Steve Tasker (Niners) and Solomon Wilcotts (Ravens) will serve as sideline reporters.
What is Nantz most looking forward to Sunday? "When those two coaches meet at midfield when the game ends, I can't wait to see what that will be like," Nantz said. "How much joy? How much despair? How will they balance that? To me, the ultimate shot of this game will be when two brothers meet at midfield -- one a winner, one a loser, with the biggest stakes in the sport, and it has all just been settled. Looking into their eyes, what are we going to see?"
Those eyes will be captured by one of the 62 cameras CBS has for the game, including unmanned cameras, aerial cameras and five high-speed cameras. (The usual number of cameras for a regular-season game is between 9 and 12; CBS used 33 for the AFC Championship to ramp up for the Super Bowl). CBS executive producer and vice president of production Harold Bryant said the network will introduce a "refreshed and enhanced" graphic look and there also will be extra microphones around the Superdome for added sound.
The most notable new technology for the broadcast is the use of the high-speed "Heyeper Zoom" camera system, which captures video at a frame rate of 300-500 frames per second against a normal 60 fps, and produces four times the resolution of regular replays. How will viewers notice the difference? "When you used to zoom in on a specific part of the screen on a replay, it would get very cloudy," McManus said. "This is a lot clearer than it ever used to be. People sometimes forget that the TV network is an integral part of the actual officiating of the games and so it will help there."
Something to keep in mind upon the game's conclusion: CBS will air its first-ever extended postgame show (featuring the Super Bowl Today cast) on the CBS Sports Network. The show is scheduled to last an hour after the trophy presentation and will likely be the highest audience in the history of that network.
How much do Super Bowl ads cost this year?
CBS chief Les Moonves said the network has sold a number of 30-second ads for more than $4 million. That's a record for a Super Bowl broadcast.
Who chose Beyonce for the halftime show?
The NFL procures the musical talent, with input from CBS. "The minute the name Beyonce was mentioned, we enthusiastically said great if you could get her," McManus said.
What is the Superdome like to broadcast a game?
"I can't think of any negatives," said Barrow. "There is so much space around the sidelines, which is great for us because we have a lot of equipment, a lot of cameras and carts going up and down the sidelines. The other thing is the noise and excitement in that stadium. It always feels like there is so much activity in the stands."
How big a storyline will the Harbaughs be during the broadcast?
Arnold said there will be individual cameras targeted on each coach. As for the broadcasters, Simms said that he'll stick initially to how each Harbaugh is managing the game. "I have some stories about both brothers that nobody knows through experiences I've had with them, and experiences they've had with people that I know real well," Simms said. "Maybe we'll get into a couple of those but so many of those stories will depend on the pace of the game and the plays being made."