How the Super Bowl Killed Television

I spent close to eight hours watching the pre-shows for Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas. The why is not important. I just did. I can remember watching the last Super Bowl the San Francisco 49ers won in 1994. I watched it on a brand-new TV in someone’s house in the Bay Area. It was my first year in the region, and I was among die hard Niners’ fans. Their giant TV, I can’t even remember anything about the brand or type of TV, had been bought at The Good Guys in a Super Bowl sales special. And it was special because you only got that kind of pricing and payment plan once a year. One only gets that kind of excuse to buy a new TV once a year.

This year, I watched the game on a new TV with webOS. I couldn’t be bothered to upload my apps, so I couldn’t really figure out how to watch it. There were no channels to click through, I just had to make sure that I had the correct login credentials for my Paramount Plus app and Hulu. You couldn’t get anything but the actual, official CBS coverage on the Paramount Plus app, and most of the early coverage could be found on some of Hulu’s live channels. It’s more expensive than cable ever was and, yet, still filled with the same number of ads and hours of talking heads.

The ads were for stuff that old people need: protection against identity theft, lots of pharmaceuticals, pension plans, life insurance plans, car insurance, and more drugs with long lists of side effects. Ads are great because they tell you where you sit on the spectrum of the audiences’ demographics. I should probably have one foot in the grave to be sure of fitting in.

What’s this got to do with the price of fish or displays, for that matter? Everything. The Super Bowl should be a peak TV event and judging from the experience, all eight hours of it, not including the actual game, TV kind of sucks. It’s a mess of an experience and it certainly doesn’t scream for better quality displays. It is in urgent need of better user interfaces and experiences, and a younger audience, but I don’t think anyone would seriously miss deeper blacks and larger color gamut.

Where once TVs were the showcase products of the display industry, I wonder what they really are today. I can pretty much guarantee that during the broadcast my kids weaved in and out of streaming apps and social media, if they were following the game at all, and that none of them bemoaned the lack of a personal TV. In fact, there was no spectacle, there was no communal experience, and there was no patience for all that talking and meandering coverage.

I love TV. Always have. It’s hard to say this, but I think the era of couch potatoes and latchkey kids being raised by the tube is over. I don’t make any secret of the fact that I don’t think a TV over $3,000 in price is justifiable under any circumstance other than as an outward display of personal income or wealth. You can probably make that threshold about $750 now. I don’t know what that means for the general display market other than the fact that expensive TVs and prototypes will always be front and center of any presentation by screen makers, and it certainly does mean that the TV market is not a growth industry.

Perhaps Samsung and LG should come to a point where they figure out how to strategize on a replacement strategy, OLEDs for LCDs, and stop treating their offerings as some sort of premium deal. Premium TVs need premium experiences and, sadly, those TV experiences are no longer there.