Super Bowl 50 is so big, the NFL broke with decades of tradition and dispensed with using Roman numerals just this once. Well, it also had something to do with “L” being a less-than-positive letter in the world of sports.
The game will be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, home of the San Francisco 49ers for the past two seasons and the game’s second visit to the area. The Niners won Super Bowl XIX over the Dolphins at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto – the closest the event has come to having one of the participants play a home game.
CBS will televise its record 19th Super Bowl, with Jim Nantz on play-by-play for a fourth time and Phil Simms as the game analyst for his eighth time. Tracy Wolfson and Evan Washburn will be the sideline reporters. The game also will stream on CBSSports.com.
ESPN Deportes will carry the Spanish-language telecast for the first time, with an announcing team that includes former Giants kicker Raul Allegre.
Westwood One has the radio broadcast for a 29th consecutive year, with Kevin Harlan, Boomer Esiason and Dan Fouts on the call. For the fifth time, Esiason will juggle his radio duties with pregame, halftime and postgame appearances on CBS.
Coldplay will be the featured halftime show act, with Beyonce and Bruno Mars also scheduled to appear.
Lady Gaga is to sing the national anthem, the ninth year in a row a woman has been chosen to do the honors.
Pregame show honors golden history
People have been making fun of Super Bowl pregame shows across two millennia now, but networks have settled on a comfortable, predictable format in which they tend to run from 2 to 6 p.m., with content that varies widely in quality.
CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus was candid about the economic strategy behind them: more time equals more money.
“Part of the reason the pregame show is four hours long is that is the amount of valuable advertising our team can sell,” he said. “There’s a lot of revenue to be generated.”
Still, McManus added, “our job is to try to make the show interesting.” The theme this year is the 50th Super Bowl, and the history that has led to this point.
Among the planned segments are one on the six living men who have called Super Bowls, a whimsical look at how the world might have been different had Scott Norwood’s kick not gone wide right in Super Bowl XXV, a look at the late commissioner Pete Rozelle and Gayle King interviewing Barack Obama – his last Super Sunday sitdown as president -- along with first lady Michelle Obama. The Jets' Brandon Marshall will be a guest analyst on the show.
Host James Brown said the four-hour slot is about right. “From my humble perspective, having hosted the shows,” he said, “I think we’re at the right balance.” Super Bowl I had a 30-minute pregame show, by the way.
Super Bowl 50 aims for viewership record
Seven of the past eight Super Bowls have set new viewership records for an American television show, topped by 114.4 million last year. The one exception was CBS’ last game, Super Bowl XLVII, which averaged 108.7 million.
That number is nothing to sneeze at. Still, TV executives do like setting records, and Sunday will be no exception.
“Listen, it’s always nice; I’m not going to lie,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said. “I would love to have it be the most-watched of all time. That would be a great goal of ours. If not, life goes on.”
CBS still has the highest-rated Super Bowl – 49.1 percent of homes for the 1982 game between the 49ers and Bengals. Last year’s game averaged a 47.5 rating, fourth-best ever and a shocking figure for the modern, fractured TV universe.
(Raw viewership has grown in part because of a growing U.S. population. But ratings are based on percentages.)
Viewership for the past five Super Bowls: XLIX (2015), 114.4 million; XLVIII (2014), 112.2 million; XLVI (2012), 111.3 million; XLV (2011), 111.0 million; XLVII (2013), 108.7 million.
Cats and dogs reign at Kitten Bowl
Host Beth Stern promised that Kitten Bowl III on Sunday will have all of the “super, super adorable” elements fans have come to expect from the Hallmark Channel show.
But this year’s edition also figures to deliver a touch of edginess – just in time for the first Super Bowl in which the kittens will have a rooting interest in the game. (Panthers, get it?)
At halftime of Kitten Bowl, puppies will be introduced, rekindling a natural rivalry that predates the Lombardi Trophy.
“So kittens and puppies collide at halftime,” Stern said. “And it is probably the cutest thing you will ever see.”
Stern said the field itself has been improved, including new toys. “I feel everything has been upgraded,” she said. “Each year it gets bigger and better and more colorful.”
But the show also has a serious element: raising awareness for pet adoption.
Stern said more than 100 kittens were used this year and all have been adopted, including five that initially were too young and briefly were fostered by Stern and her husband, Howard, the satellite radio personality.
Stern said she is supportive of Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, which will mark its 12th edition Sunday, and does not view the two as being in competition.
“I think the more the merrier,” she said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Colbert gets post-Super Bowl sweet spot
CBS went with an episode of “Lassie” for its first post-Super Bowl program back in 1967 – before networks had figured out that post-Super Bowl programming was a thing.
Since then, all manner of material has gotten the nod for one of TV’s most coveted time slots. For a while the vogue was premiering new shows. More recently, special episodes of existing shows have been the norm.
CBS aired one of the more famous post-Super Bowl shows in 1992, an episode of “60 Minutes” in which Bill and Hillary Clinton addressed reports of the then-presidential candidate’s extramarital affair with Gennifer Flowers.
This year, CBS will try something completely different: a live episode of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” the first time a late-night program has followed the big game.
Why? Why not?
CBS by the numbers
Pylon Cam has been one of the most popular recent innovations in football coverage, giving viewers some swell looks at plays in and around the end zone.
CBS will use them on all eight end zone pylons Sunday, with each being equipped to show two angles, for a total of 16 potential views of big plays.
Other production-related numbers from CBS: 12 production trucks, 70 game cameras, 256 microphones, 550 total CBS personnel in the San Francisco Bay Area.
All eyes on Carey
Phil Simms, who will work his eighth Super Bowl as an analyst – second only to John Madden’s 11 – has taken his share of social media criticism this season. But it is nothing compared to the beating CBS’ officiating expert, Mike Carey, has endured.
“I’ve seen some of the criticism,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said. “Some of it is very hurtful, quite frankly. But Mike is learning his craft, and I think more often than not he has been right.”
Carey often has been wrong, though, and his presentation is not as smooth as the man who pioneered the role, Fox’s Mike Pereira.
“Mike has perhaps gone out on a limb more than he should in terms of speculating what a call should be,” McManus said. “I hope [viewers] would understand that Mike is only giving his opinion.”
Will Beyonce wear golden shoes?
Nothing inspires creative – and/or ridiculous – prop bets quite like the Super Bowl, and this year is no exception. Some offerings from the off-shore betting site Bovada:
— If Steph Curry is shown on TV, what will he be wearing: personalized Carolina Steph Curry jersey (1/1), no jersey (2/1), Cam Newton jersey (3/1), any other Carolina jersey (5/1).
— How many times will the Golden Gate Bridge be shown on broadcast: over/under is 0.5.
— How many times will Archie Manning be shown on broadcast: over/under is 1.5.
— How many times will John Elway be shown during broadcast: over/under is 2.5.
— What color liquid will be poured on winning coach: orange (5/4), blue (3/1), clear (4/1), yellow (4/1), red (6/1), green (10/1), purple (10/1).
— What color will Beyonce’s footwear be when she comes on stage during the Super Bowl 50 halftime show: black (3/2), gold/brown (5/2), white (11/4), silver/grey (19/4), any other color (7/1).