Company to put ads on first down stripe at Super Bowl

LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) – A small company that made big news last year by inserting digital ads on television shows is at it again with plans to put ads on the superimposed yellow first down stripe in foreign broadcasts of the Super Bowl on Jan. 28.

On New Year’s Eve last year, TV network CBS raised a big ruckus in broadcasting when it used digital technology to insert its own logo over information from rival NBC during live millennium celebration coverage from New York’s Times Square.

The company behind the technology CBS used was New Jersey-based Princeton Video Image Inc., which uses digital technology to overlay advertisements and logos on TV shows much like a “crawler” with stock quotes runs across a financial news screen or team scores appear on sports channels.

This year, the 40-employee Princeton Video has inked a deal with the mighty National Football League to place the logo of Federal Express General Motors Canada and Mexico’s Banca Serfin on the artificial first down line superimposed on the field on TV screens.

That yellow line, which was also created by Princeton video, began appearing in recent seasons and has been a hit with football loving couch potatoes because it shows fans exactly how far a team must go to get a first down.

“In our continuing effort to educate fans around the world about the rules of our game, Princeton Video’s first down line serves as an important teaching tool,” said Doug Quinn, senior vice president of NFL International.


The Super Bowl is the most watched sporting event of the year on television in the United States, but it also draws as many as 700 million viewers in 200 countries worldwide.

The goal, obviously, is to boost revenues for broadcasters and the NFL by increasing advertising opportunities during the telecast, but Princeton Video’s vice president of business development, Sam McCleery, sees benefits for fans, too.

“As networks have added more commercial time, sporting events have gone longer and longer,” said McCleery.

The longer events, in turn, have drawn the ire of fans and caused more remote controls to begin clicking to other channels, which is not what advertisers and programmers want.

“We tell the networks that if they want to maintain revenue, there are other ways to do it than by adding more and more (traditional) ads,” said McCleery.

He said the company’s research using focus groups has shown that fans prefer shorter events with the digitally-inserted ads vs. longer programs with a greater number of traditional ad breaks.

Overseas, the company is overlaying ads in the center of soccer fields for matches being televised.

McCleery said the NFL wanted to try the ad idea overseas first, in a sort of test to see how well it is received, before debuting it in the United States.

But by next year if the strategy is successful, instead of hearing an announcer say: “The Raiders must get to the 30-yard line for a first down,” they may well hear: “The Raiders must get to the FedEx line …”