The iTV Doctor Is In!: Did the Super Bowl Just Reinvent Interactive Television?

Dear Readers:

Didja happen to catch the following image in the Best Buy ad during Sunday's Super Bowl?

The interactive television sands have just shifted under our feet, all because of the folks at Shazam. They enabled ads from the likes of Toyota,, Pepsi, Best Buy and others to engage viewers in a true interactive television experience. During THE SUPER BOWL! Which, at 111.3 million viewers, was the most-watched telecast on record, according to Daily Variety.

For years, those of us slaving in the interactive television space have dreamed about getting on primetime broadcast network television. And Shazam just redefined our expectations, and very possibly reinvented interactive television.

We had Shazam EVP of advertising sales, Evan Krauss, on our panel at the 2011 TV of Tomorrow Show in San Francisco. I'm hoping we can get the Shazam guys back for the 2012 show to share some of the backstage details about their Super Bowl coup.

But before we go any further, let's take a look at a video I shot of the Best Buy ad during the Super Bowl. You'll have to excuse the fuzziness of the iPhone on the video; I was holding it up in front on my little FlipCam, and the iPhone was inside the FlipCam's focal length. But I think you get the idea:

Shazam's PR department tells me the two guys holding up the iPhones running Shazam are founders Avery Wang (on the right) and Chris Barton (on the left).

The post-game press release from Shazam included the following statement:

"The Super Bowl was our first major live network television event where we enabled people to interact with all aspects of the game, including the ads and the spectacular halftime show," said Andrew Fisher, CEO. "Knowing the size of the Super Bowl audience, we had high expectations for how many people would be engaged during the event and with the numbers in the millions we were blown away."

"Numbers in the millions," perhaps. But then you have to consider the "fractional" calculations of interactive television: The audience is a fraction of TV Households (although with the Super Bowl, it's a BIG fraction); the app trigger is seen by a fraction of the audience; a fraction of those who see the trigger have an appropriate device; a fraction of those who have the device have the software; a fraction of those who have the software actually use it.

Most of the Shazam-enabled ads had a real call to action. The Best Buy call to action came when the two Shazam founders appeared on screen, about halfway through the ad.

Spots from Toyota, Teleflora, Pepsi, GE, and Bud Light also had a call to action. The Toyota spot had a tag right up front inviting viewers to win a Toyota Camry:

And here is the Bud Light halftime teaser with HEAVY promotion of Shazam:

However, when you follow the link on the Elton John ad for Pepsi, which provides a Shazam link to an expanded version of the spot with Melanie Amaro's music video, you run into a nasty little enhancement that YouTube adds to its videos: a counter. By the end of the game, there were only a few hundred views of Melanie's video; but as of 1:30PM (ET) on Monday February 6th the number was up to nearly 25,000 (numbers taken directly from the Shazam ad link).

Here's the Shazam-enabled Pepsi spot (with my shaky out-of-focus iPhone):

All that notwithstanding, Shazam accomplished a monumental feat.

And it is very interesting to note that by working directly with NBC and the advertisers, Shazam enabled a connection directly to the consumer. And by so doing they cut NBC's sister company Comcast Cable (and all their brethren) right out of the picture. There must have been some interesting high-level strategic conversations in Philadelphia about that.

Maybe we'll learn more in the coming weeks: Shazam is coming right back with enabled ads on the Grammy Awards (CBS) on February 12th.



The iTV Doctor is *Rick Howe*, who provides interactive television consulting services to programmers and advertisers. He is the recipient of a CTAM Tami Award for retention marketing and this year was nominated to Cable Pioneers. He is also the co-author of a patent for the use of multiscreen mosaics in EPG's. Endorsed by top cable and satellite distributors, "Dr" Howe still makes house calls, and the first visit is always free. His services include product development, distribution strategy and the development of low-cost interactive applications for rapid deployment across all platforms. Have a question for the iTV Doctor? Email him at

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