PASADENA, Calif. — The Super Bowl is turning 50, although the game played next month on America’s informal national holiday will hardly be showing its age because of new gadgetry CBS Sports is debuting.
A replay system will give viewers a 360-degree perspective and higher resolution than previously ever seen for the game. Thirty-six cameras strung around the upper deck of Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, can freeze the moment and revolve around the play before continuing to show the scene.
Viewers on Feb. 7 will be able to check out the quarterback’s view from the pocket to other players’ perspectives on the field, and it can be animated, too.
“We tried it on a couple regular-season games and it looks remarkable,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said Tuesday at a gathering of TV critics.
For the first time in a Super Bowl, CBS will use eight custom-molded pylons that house 16 cameras to film the goal lines and sidelines of both teams. The cameras also will have microphones embedded in them to enhance the game’s natural sound. They were used in the College Football Playoff championship Monday.
During the game, the network will use the NFL’s Next Gen stats that track how fast and far players run over the course of the day and matchup-based statistics between players.
CBS Sports is updating its logo and on-air graphics for the first time in 35 years to debut during Super Bowl week programming.
Gayle King of “CBS This Morning” will conduct a live interview with President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle as part of the coverage.
McManus said planning for the event’s landmark anniversary began five days after last year’s game ended. CBS will be airing its 19th Super Bowl, the most of any network.
“We’re pumped up about it,” he said. “We can’t wait for Super Bowl Sunday.”
During game week at 8 p.m. nightly, CBS will air one-minute updates from either San Francisco or Santa Clara.
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On game day, the network will air seven hours of programming using four sets: one on Market Street in downtown San Francisco and three from the stadium in Santa Clara (one outside near the tailgating area, one on the field and the main hosts on a concourse overlooking the field).
“We know the appetite is insatiable when it comes to football,” pregame host James Brown said.
The game has grown dramatically since the first one Jan. 15, 1967, from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Back then, there was a scant 30 minutes of pregame programming, one marching band at halftime, 11 cameras, two production trucks and “Lassie” aired directly afterward. Besides this year’s massive pregame hype, British band Coldplay and Beyonce will perform at halftime, there will be 70 game cameras, 12 production trucks and the coveted post-game slot goes to “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
Jack Whitaker was part of the announcing team for the first game, calling it “this first meeting ever between the American Football League and National Football League.” The term Super Bowl had yet to be popularized.
“It’s not like it is today, but we thought it would be a very important game,” said Whitaker, who at 91 is the only surviving member of the original four-man broadcast team that included Ray Scott, Frank Gifford and Pat Summerall.
CBS and NBC both carried the game, so Scott called the first half and Whitaker handled the second half. He recalled that NBC got caught in commercial when the second half began, so the teams re-did the kickoff.
The atmosphere around the big game has grown accordingly, too.
Phil Simms, who will call this year’s game with Jim Nantz, remembered his first Super Bowl as a quarterback at the Rose Bowl in 1987.
“One of my linemen was crying and another was throwing up. That doesn’t happen anymore,” he said.
“Today’s players are so used to being on the stage, they can’t wait to get on the stage. That’s why we see such exciting plays and such great moments.”
Meanwhile, the NFL is reviewing network bids for the rights to Thursday night games after the first two years aired on CBS. McManus said the league sought proposals for either an exclusive package or splitting the eight weeks of games between networks.
“I think we have the advantage because the template is in place for CBS,” he said. “I wouldn’t call us the front runner.”