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Footbal and Television
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Footbal and Television

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The Evolution of the Super Bowl: How Television Transformed a Football Game into a Cultural Phenomenon

NOTE: This article is 4 months old and may not include the most recent information.

The Super Bowl has become far more than just a football game. Over 50+ years, it has evolved into a huge cultural phenomenon deeply intertwined with the world of television.

Let’s trace how their paths first crossed. The inaugural AFL-NFL World Championship Game (which later became the Super Bowl) happened on January 15, 1967, with the Green Bay Packers beating the Kansas City Chiefs. This marked the start of an annual mega-event that would change the TV landscape. Originally alternately broadcast on NBC and CBS, the game coined its iconic “Super Bowl” name in 1969 when Roman numerals were also introduced to number each new iteration.

As viewership exploded, so too did the importance of Super Bowl broadcasting. ABC entering the mix in 1970 with its signature Monday Night Football brought more innovations, celebrity cameos and made halftime highlights famous. As TV technology progressed, so did the spectacle – HD and 4K broadcasts now let home viewers see the action in unprecedented clarity. And the game has now gone global, broadcast in over 170 countries and 30 languages.

The Super Bowl has also heavily influenced television and culture beyond the game itself. The halftime shows have morphed from simple marching bands to hugely elaborate pop concert events – who can forget Michael Jackson’s legendary set? Commercials have also become big production extravaganzas and a platform for clever storytelling, not to mention billion-dollar branding opportunities.

It’s been a very symbiotic relationship. The NFL has benefitted tremendously from the exposure and ad revenues the broadcasts provide. The networks profit big time too – over 100 million tune in every year, making the Super Bowl by far the most watched TV event annually.

So while it started as a simple championship game, innovations in sports broadcasting and entertainment have transformed the Super Bowl into a hugely celebrated pop culture event. And it likely still has even bigger things in store. The game and TV shall continue to evolve together.

Trevor Decker
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