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Guide to a wired Super Bowl
(IDG) -- Football fans take note: You still have to sit through those Budweiser frog ads to watch the Super Bowl, but this year Web sites and wireless services offer some handy alternatives to keeping on top of the action before and during the game.
Sports fans can get up-to-the-minute stats, news, and game information, as well as participate in polls and chats, and even watch pregame live Webcasts. If you're heading outside in lieu of beer-and-couch vegging, take along a personal digital assistant with wireless services from OmniSky to feed your football fix. But despite increased Web coverage this year, you still won't get the full game without a TV around.
Sites offer virtual details
Some of the sites working to beef up your football fantasies include NFL.com, CBSSportsline.com, and FOXSports, all touting loads of playoff reports. CBS, the television network broadcasting the game, has teamed with NFL.com to produce the SuperBowl.com site, entirely dedicated to this year's championship game.
SeeItFirst is providing the Webcast technology for SuperBowl.com's SuperBowl.com TV, a series of four pregame video streams produced by NFLFilmsTV. Cohosted by Rebecca Grant from the Fox Network and ex-San Diego Charger Aaron Taylor, the series will air January 24 through 27. It features interviews with current and former players, as well as interactive chat sessions. You'll need the Windows Media Player to watch.
SeeItFirst promises the live SuperBowl.com TV feed will be surrounded by relevant and changing information.
"In the past, streaming Webcasts were surrounded by static Web content," says Scott Gordon, vice president of marketing at SeeItFirst. "Our interactive Webcast platform enables the dynamic push of content that's directly in context of the live video."
In the case of SuperBowl.com TV, that means you'll see the stats and bio of a player being interviewed, even if he wasn't scheduled to appear.
Although you probably can't watch the live game on your PC, NFLFilmsTV expects to offer highlights afterwards, Gordon adds. "The NFLFilmsTV Webcasts are intended to supplement the excitement of the game for fans. They have highlights of previous Super Bowls, so one would foresee they'd offer highlights of this one."
Football goes wireless
Up-to-the-minute sports information is easily accessible at home, where you have a TV or radio handy. But when you're on the go, wireless services can keep you up to speed on the latest news from the Giants or Ravens or even the latest play of the game.
Wireless service provider OmniSky offers an NFL playoffs subchannel on its service for Palms, Handspring Visors, and Hewlett-Packard Jornada Pocket PCs, says Tom Skapars, manager of OmniSky's sports channel.
"We've pooled together content from CBS Sportsline, NFL.com, Sporting News, and Fox Sports," Skapars says. "The content varies by provider."
CBS Sportsline.com lets you track teams in real time and hit refresh for updated scores during the game, Skapars says. Fox Sports also runs reports by sports journalist Jimmy Kimmel, he adds.
Of course, wireless services on monochrome PDAs don't yet offer the speed or display technology of a Webcast. But the Pocket PC platform has some rich media potential, says Susan Chen, senior manager content at OmniSky. "There, things like Talk Radio make sense."
Web woes of sports events
Checking out stats, stories, and the status of your fantasy football team draws cyberfans to those sites in the days and weeks leading up to the game. But who logs on during the event? Would you really watch the game on your PC?
There's not much point to watching a Webcast of the game, says Malcolm Maclachlan, a media electronic-commerce analyst at IDC. "But there is some potential for streaming replays during halftime," he adds.
More creative interaction between television broadcasts and the Web will come with convergence devices like Internet television, Maclachlan says. "I'd like to see an interactive television feature where I pick my camera angle. That would do something that directly affects my ability to watch and enjoy the game."
Another problem with Web-based Super Bowl content is the very nature of the Super Bowl: It's an event, not only a game.
Web-based information has a limited appeal, Maclachlan says. "The Super Bowl draws in people who don't normally watch football; it's a social event, not a gather-around-the-PC thing."
Even the Olympics, which offers more Web appeal with its general audience and many events that weren't broadcast on TV, wasn't a big Web hit.
During last summer's Sydney Games, NBC found the audience for its NBCOlympics.com site to be minuscule compared to the TV audience.
According to a Nielsen NetRatings report issued in September, traffic to Olympics.com jumped from 117,000 visitors the week before the Olympics to 562,000 visitors during the first week of TV broadcast. Still, the figure pales in comparison to the 56 million Americans NBC Sports Research says tuned in to watch the opening ceremony. Part of the problem is that TV networks don't want to lose any lucrative television advertisements by pushing viewers to its Web site rather than its television broadcast.
Possible, but practical?
So until the Web has the earning power of the TV and broadband makes interactive Webcasting painless, expect sports sites to focus on supplementary content and not the action on the field.
As for wireless coverage, Maclachlan considers that even more of a stretch.
"Most of the people techie enough and who can afford wireless devices don't have to work Sundays" and will be in front of their TVs, he says. As for pregame coverage, "that's when people consume in-depth analysis in the newspaper, magazines, and on the Web."
Wireless devices aren't good for lengthy reads or watching movement-intensive sporting events, Maclachlan adds.
But, if you're a big fan, the TV is just one resource--and a low-tech one at that--to keep on top of Super Bowl news.
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