There may be a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to multiple, effective vaccines in the early stages of distribution. But that doesn’t mean it’s suddenly OK to get 15 friends together in a living room to watch the Chiefs take on the Bucs. Take it from Dr. Anthony Fauci: 2021 is the year to “lay low and cool it.”
Just because you can’t all physically be together doesn’t mean you and your friends have to be alone on Super Bowl Sunday. Here’s how to make it work.
Guidelines for in-person parties
Allow me to editorialize a bit here: You should probably not host an in-person gathering for the Super Bowl — especially not an indoors one with guests. Avoiding those scenarios has been one of the most effective ways to ward off COVID-19 for the past year, and that hasn’t changed.
If you don’t want to listen to me, listen to the CDC. It recommends hosting a virtual party or sticking with your housemates to watch the Super Bowl. In-person gatherings should be held outdoors (anyone with a backyard and a projector will suddenly become very popular) with people who don’t live together spaced six feet apart and wearing masks. Seriously, if you’re with someone you don’t live with and see every day, wear a mask unless you’re eating or drinking. Maybe wear two.
In summary, sure, you can technically put together some kind of real-life gathering for Super Bowl LV. All you need is enough outdoor space for everyone to properly distance, some kind of outdoor screen that everyone can watch while they’re spaced apart, and strict mask discipline. In other words, hosting a COVID-safe Super Bowl party will be a gigantic pain for most people and, frankly, isn’t worth the effort.
It sucks, but if you’d prefer not to get sick or pass a potentially deadly illness onto others, that’s the way it has to be for now. The rollout might be painfully slow, but vaccines are on the way. Hang tight and host a virtual Super Bowl party instead.
How to watch the Super Bowl together online
Scener or Teleparty
Hosting remote movie nights got significantly easier during the pandemic, with many services adopting official group streaming solutions and third parties developing feature-rich apps for the same purpose. Unfortunately, streaming live TV with your friends is not quite as easy.
Super Bowl LV is being played on CBS this year. It’s easy to stream by yourself, but looping remote friends into the same feed requires a bit of technical wizardry. Thankfully, Scener and Teleparty might be able to help.
Both are Chrome browsers that we’ve covered throughout the pandemic. If you’re not familiar with Teleparty, it’s just a rebranded version of Netflix Party that supports more than just Netflix. The key cog to all of this is that both Scener and Teleparty support Hulu, and Hulu’s Live TV offering includes local CBS affiliates in many markets. Theoretically, if everyone in a Teleparty or Scener session has their own Hulu with Live TV login, they could watch together. By the way, Hulu offers a week-long free trial for Live TV.
There are a couple of notable differences between these two apps. Scener offers video and voice chat, while Teleparty only offers text chat. On the other hand, Teleparty rooms can handle 50 people at once, while private Scener rooms can only have 10 people on camera at a time. Scener does support larger “theater” rooms where an unlimited number of guests can text chat, though.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to truly stress test this since since I don’t know many people with Hulu’s Live TV subscription. It’s also difficult to say how this will hold up during what will surely be a tense time for any live TV streaming app’s servers. That said, I was able to get a live CBS feed going in private sessions in both Scener and Teleparty without any fuss. I can’t say with certainty that any of this will work flawlessly on Sunday night, so go in with a backup plan.
By far the easiest option for most people also has the most limitations. Of course, I’m referring to simply hosting a Zoom (or similar video chat service) call and making everyone watch the game however they can as you all chat about it.
The biggest problem with this approach, as someone who has watched sports this way before, is that it’s nearly impossible to ensure that everyone’s streams or TV broadcasts are synced up. Someone watching on CBS All Access will almost surely be a play or two behind someone watching on over-the-air TV. As a matter of etiquette, your group should establish who is behind early on and everyone should do their best to keep that in mind when reacting to anything that happens.
The only other major advice I’d give is to be careful about volume if you watch the Super Bowl on a separate screen from the one you’re Zooming on. Nobody likes hearing the sound of another person’s TV get filtered through a video call’s audio compression. It might be best to mute your mic when you aren’t speaking.
Super Bowl LV is going to be unusual in many ways thanks to COVID-19. Make no mistake, we all wish we could get together with our friends, eat wings, and pound beers during the big game. Maybe next year. Until then, any of the above methods can act as a safe alternative.