The problem is as old as time. Well, it’s as old as the Super Bowl, which is reaching its 49th year in 2015. That means for nearly half a century, television fans have been trying to figure out how to engage in the largest social gathering across the United States without, you know, watching the sport being celebrated. The Super Bowl has become much more than the championship game of the long, brutal NFL season: It’s a communal experience where consumers are given previews of some of the year’s most anticipated products via their most popular art form. That’s right. It’s about commercials.
But how can one watch the commercials without sitting through the game? In the past, people could record and fast forward through the boring bits of sporting, but that created a delay and thus put you behind everyone else engaging on social media. Watching the commercials ahead of time online — as has become a customary part of the two-week buildup to the game — creates the same problem. This year, though, things change. This year you can stay up to the minute on the commercials without being forced to watch a meaningless second of concussion-causing hits. Why? The Super Bowl is streaming online this year for free. No cable subscription required. No pesky log in through your service (or your friend’s).
To help you properly honor the momentous gift courtesy of NBC and the NFL, we’ve created the handy, step-by-step guide listed below to aid in Super-sizing your enjoyment. So, without further ado, are you ready for something besides football?
Step 1: Turn on your computer or tablet.
– Make sure your wifi connection is strong.
– Sorry. The NFL has not made the game available to stream on your phone.
– Get comfy in a position where you can see both your computer and television.
Step 2: Log in to Twitter (and/or your favorite social media platforms)
– Scroll through to make sure you’re up to date on the discussion.
– Check for the appropriate hashtags.
– Communicate with friends around the world so you know who’s watching, how they’re watching, and what they’re watching.
Step 3: Head to NBC’s streaming site.
– Load the streaming version of the game on your streaming device — you’ll need the NBC Sports Live Extra app to watch on your tablet — and set it aside.
– Keep it within eyesight. You’ll need to turn up the volume when commercials start, so make sure it’s handy.
– The online feed will air ads exclusively made for the streaming experience as well as ads shown in the broadcast version. That means you’ll most likely need to flip your TV to the game if you don’t want to miss some of the commercials, even though you obviously don’t have to do so.
Step 4: Choose a primary programming option — aka, what you really want to watch — from the options listed below:
Super Bowl Specials:
If you thought the Super Bowl was just about football and commercials, clearly you underestimated the bandwagon-jumping nature of our capitalistic society. There are plenty of other options loosely tethered to the big game, including the instantly-beloved “Puppy Bowl,” now entering its 11th year. This year’s edition features live competitive scoring for the first time ever as Team Ruff faces off against Team Fluff in a battle in which no viewer cares who wins — we all already have (though, for the record, Indiewire supports Team Ruff because of Lewis).
In case you like your alternate content a little more branded, Discovery Channel is trying out another “bowl” program (the company owns Animal Planet), this time with something almost as adorable as puppies: babies! The “Efagrow Toddler Bowl” (airing on Discovery Life at noon) may sound like a December college football game between the eighth best SEC team and second-best MAC squad, but instead it’s a Super Bowl alternative challenging babies to show what their tiny little muscles can do, all while boosting their brains (a claim made by Enfagrow).
Continuing the streak of corporate sponsorship, Craig Robinson and his band, The Nasty Delicious, have teamed up with Pepsi and Comedy Central to try to get fans “hyped for halftime.” Basically, the group has created a short web series about a male fairy godmother who’s trying to get Robinson & his Nasty band to Arizona for the Super Bowl halftime show, which may or may not actually happen (we’re leaning toward “yes,” but not on the same stage as Katy Perry).
The musical group will perform on another Super Bowl special airing Friday night, which brings us to “Key and Peele’s Super Bowl Comedy Special,” on which The Nasty Delicious will appear during its January 30 debut. The one-hour special promises to “send-up America’s toughest pastime,” in a way only the Comedy Central stars can.
Halftime Show Alternatives:
While technically the half-time show is the least-essential part of the Super Bowl (barring, of course, the potential for wardrobe malfunctions), if you want to click into Katy Perry’s time on stage, we at Indiewire do not judge you. She has made some catchy songs! And Lenny Kravitz is gonna show up at some point! It could be fun.
But in case you are not in the mood to “Roar,” there are options. Hallmark might not have demonstrated the most compelling use of creativity in creating “The Kitten Bowl, but as Animal Planet doesn’t appear interested in suing — hey, kittens!
Also, for those of a digitally-savvy bent, YouTube will be launching its first-ever live-streamed halftime show for The Big Game. Streaming on the AdBlitz channel, the show will feature over 20 YouTube creators including Harley “Epic Meal Time” Morenstein, Freddy Wong and Rhett and Link. The live show promises comedy, music and audience interaction elements, all structured around the almighty Super Bowl ad — aka, for most of us, the best part.
And of course, halftime is really just a state of mind. Meanwhile, the below will be running all day long…
Networks have counter-programmed the crap out of this Sunday. If you want to dive deep into the works of Tyler Perry or rewatch the “Shrek” movies with your 5-year-old, this is your chance. But here are a few options actually worth considering:
“How I Met Your Mother” (WGN, 9am-8pm): BEFORE YOU SAY ANYTHING, we checked: this 11-hour marathon features a best-of selection of episodes from the first five seasons. So, if you’re still mad at the series finale, this is maybe an opportunity to reconnect with what made the show great in its earlier days. Marshgammon! Swarley! The slap bet! All your old favorites are here.
“The Walking Dead” (AMC, 10am-midnight): Whether or not you’ve already been spoiled for the show’s biggest twists, you might consider spending your Super Bowl Sunday rediscovering the show’s earlier seasons with this Season 1 & 2 marathon. The show returns to AMC on February 8, and the drama of the zombie apocalypse is always slightly more complex than you’d expect.
“Law and Order: SVU” (USA, 11am-10pm): This makes our list entirely because USA is calling it “The Benson Bowl.” This amuses us. As always with “SVU,” you know exactly what you’re getting here.
“Star Trek: The Next Generation” (BBC America, 9am-3am): We have never understood why BBC America syndicates “Next Generation,” but we’re always glad to see it. BBC America has queued up a lot of Season 2 for Sunday, and “the Dr. Pulaski season” was never considered a golden age for the show. But all your other friends are there, so get ready to engage.
Believe it or not, there are some actual live events happening during the Super Bowl. I know, I know. It seems hard to believe anyone would want to watch anything wholly unrelated to the bloody art of football, let alone purchase tickets to go somewhere without a television and participate in a totally different activity. But hey, everyone’s different. If you want to try to understand these strange people, I’d recommend starting with PBS’ Band and Drill Team Championships, airing in Los Angeles, and whatever similarly addictive local programming will be on across the country.
ESPN will be showing the World Series of Poker, as they tend to do whenever the NFL is on — my main theory as to why they do this is because they have an agreement with the league to show the most boring live sports possible in order to push viewers to NFL games. Again, this is just a theory, but why else would they only show bowling and poker during NFL games? Live score updates would get better ratings.
There’s also a UFC fight airing somewhere, but I won’t be bothered to look up where as that “sport” seems even more brutal than the one this article is helping you not watch. Odds are if you’re interested in UFC, then you know where to find it.
VOD (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.) Options:
Perhaps your safest bet for alternative Super Bowl programming is catching up on whatever shows you’ve been missing these past few weeks, months or years. As far as current shows go, make sure you watch the last season of “Parenthood.” Jason Katims’ touching ode to family life wrapped up its series on Thursday night and will have you weeping while everyone else is cheering, but in the best way possible. “Friday Night Lights” fans should make sure they give it a chance, as the first five seasons are available via Netflix and the sixth is all on Hulu, and non-“Friday Night Lights” fans obviously haven’t seen the greatest television series ever made, so watch that first! (It’s also on Netflix.)
Other great shows to binge-watch right now include “Babylon” on SundanceTV (if you recorded it), “Archer” on FX (available online), “The Americans” (which just started Season 3, with Seasons 1 & 2 on Amazon Prime) and “Togetherness” (via HBO Go). All are airing right now, and all have episodes available to help you get caught up before new episodes arrive post-Super Bowl Sunday.
As far as past favorites go, the Indiewire staff recommends “Six Feet Under” (via Amazon Prime or HBO Go), “The West Wing” (Netflix), “Lost” (Netflix), “Oz” (HBO Go or Amazon Prime), “The X-Files” (Netflix) and “The Wire” (HBO Go and Amazon Prime), the last of which recently was remastered and now looks…well, just as good as before.
Step 5: Enjoy!
– Go Seahawks!