NBCU’s Cable Nets Had Big Stakes in the Big Game

Super Bowl XLIX was a big day for NBC, looking to tackle the largest audience in U.S. TV history, and for NBC Universo, televising the National Football League’s championship game in Spanish as it transitioned from mun2.

But other NBCU properties had big stakes in the Big Game, too.

Oxygen had a presence at the NFL Fan Experience in Phoenix, hosting an interactive activation behind its upcoming competition series, Street Art Throwdown, in which 10 artists will compete for $100,000 by creating various outdoor art installations around Los Angeles.

In Phoenix on Thursday and Friday (Jan. 29 and Jan. 30), fans, players and celebrities dipped Nerf footballs in paint and threw them at blank canvases; contestants then used those as the starting points for murals representing Play 60, the NFL’s youth outreach initiative, and nearby Luke Air Force Base.

On Saturday (Jan. 31), the artists worked on two massive murals depicting the Seattle Seahawks, the New England Patriots, the NBC logo and other Super Bowlrelated fare; those murals were judged by show creator Justin Bua, co-host Lauren Wagner and NFL players.

Saturday’s activities were part of NBC’s six-hour pregame show, a high-profile promotion for Street Art Throwdown’s Tuesday, Feb. 3, debut (9 p.m. ET/PT).

“We saw an amazing synergy between the high-energy, competitive nature of the Super Bowl and street art,” Bravo and Oyxgen Media executive vice president og m Ellen Stone told The Wire.

At E!, the game was a regal thing, with the network’s first-ever Super Bowl spot touting its first-ever original scripted series, The Royals, during the game’s fourth quarter

The 30-second spot is a lynchpin of NBCU’s “Symphony” promotional push behind The Royals, the Lionsgate and Universal Cable Productions co-production bowing on the ides of March.

Viewers got a “mini-movie” look at the fictional British royal family — Elizabeth Hurley and Vincent Regan as Queen Helena and King Simon, and William Moseley and Alexandra Park as their devious and scandalous royal twins, Prince Liam and Princess Eleanor.

Collision Courses: Freewheel Brand, Sling TV Interface Cause Confusion

Sling TV, Dish Network’s new over-the-top TV service aimed at cord-cutters, started to open the gates last week, and the reviews so far have been mixed, with some wondering if the programming lineup will be strong enough to attract millennials while also giving its user interface high marks.

As for that UI: It was brought to The Wire’s attention that Sling TV’s interface looks similar to the navigation system developed by aioTV, a startup that has developed an Android-powered platform that stitches together traditional pay TV services with OTT content. Midcontinent Communications is one of aioTV’s recently announced cable operator partners. Sling TV’s and aioTV’s interfaces both keep the live-viewing window up top and add two digital ribbons underneath for users to navigate channels and find other forms of content.

At least subtle differences are detectable between aioTV’s and Sling TV’s interfaces. On another front, there’s no denying the similarity between the brand names of Cablevision Systems’s new WiFi-only phone service and the name of the multiscreen advanced ad firm that Comcast acquired last year.

Cablevision’s service, set to launch later this month, is called “Freewheel.” The Comcast-owned company is called “FreeWheel.” They’re two different services — Comcast’s does advanced advertising, while Cablevision’s will soon offer WiFi-based phone and data services — but they both have direct ties to cable operators.

Sources familiar with both parties told The Wire that Comcast and Cablevision have been working amicably toward an agreement that will let both companies thrive.

— Jeff Baumgartner

Internet Neutrality Fight Goes Feline: Free Press Cats Scratch ‘Big Cable’

Strong Internet-neutrality rule proponents are nothing if not creative.

Before last week’s Federal Communications Commission meeting, several organizations staged a cat-themed pro-Title II reclassification demonstration in support of what they expect to be chairman Tom Wheeler’s vote next month on strong rules.

The demonstration featured cat-shaped signs and stuffed kitties as an audience for a “cat fight” between someone in a cat suit fi ghting someone dressed as a pinstriped, cigar-smoking caricature identified as Big Cable/Comcast.

The cat won in what was billed as “Net Neutral-i-kitty vs. Cable Boss: A Battle for the Soul of the Internet.” Meeowch!

While cable operators are usually the ones painted as fat cats, in this case the cats were not fat and were the good guys (or felines, as it were).

“If the Internet has an official mascot, it’s the cat,” Timothy Karr, senior director of strategy for Free Press, said. “According to a CBS News report, feline content accounts for a whopping 15% of all online traffic. It seems natural then that cats would want net mewtrality.”

The FCC is scheduled to vote Feb. 26 on new Open Internet rules and is widely expected to impose the Title II rules the groups have been pushing for.

Promoting the demonstration, staged in a vacant lot adjacent to FCC headquarters, were Free Press, 18 Million Rising, Consumers Union, Fight for the Future, Hollaback!, MAG-Net, Media Mobilizing Project, Open Media and Women, Action, and the Media.

— John Eggerton