How Not To Watch The Super Bowl: Sunday’s TV Counterprogramming

Puppy Bowl The Hunger Games
Animal Planet/Lionsgate

Last year, the Super Bowl drew 103.4 million total viewers, and while that was the lowest total for the NFL championship game/American cultural event in nine years, it also was the 10th-most-watched program in American TV history. You can expect that number to rise this year with CBS’ broadcast from Atlanta featuring two major-market teams in the Los Angeles Rams and the love-them-or-hate-them-but-always-watch-them New England Patriots, and of course the ads in between that keep the water cooler bubbling for days.

Still, it means more than 200 million Americans won’t watch the game, which means they’ll need something else to look at. Broadcasters and streamers not named CBS or CBS All Access will have you covered again this year on that front, setting up counterprogramming with puppies, cats and marathons galore (or, dogs and Katniss living together!).

So here’s a brief rundown of how not to watch Super Bowl LIII, and check back as we add more:

Puppy Bowl XV, Animal Planet

Animal Planet is celebrating its 15th year of the show, which actually airs live at 3 PM ET/noon PT and repeats throughout the human game. It’s always a fun one especially for the pups — all of whom are up for adoption, with a 100% success rate placing them in homes. This year’s game between Team Ruff and Team Fluff will feature 93 puppies from 51 shelters nationwide including Costa Rica. The pre-game show begins at 2 PM ET/11 AM PT, and the Kitty Half-Time Show returns. Last year’s game hit demo-ratings highs.

Kitten Bowl
Hallmark Channel

Kitten Bowl VI, Hallmark Channel

The feline version of the Puppy Bowl starts at 2 PM ET/PT, and is bringing the heat this year by pairing host and animal advocate Beth Stern with Dean Cain and former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete for play-by-play duties with commentary by former NFL rusher Rashad Jennings and ex-QB Boomer Esiason. The game will be followed by an adoption special, Cat Bowl, part of an initiative that will see more than 500 shelter partners showcases local animals available for adoption from Saturday-February 16.

TV Marathons

This is an annual tradition, and this year’s list has some fine entries going during the game (some networks are touting 3-4 episodes as a “marathon,” but that’s more like a 5K). Especially of interest: BBC America showing all of Planet Earth: Blue Planet (I and II), FXX’s The Simpsons (plus The Simpsons Movie) and, maybe most appropriate, a Hunger Games marathon of all four movies on TBS beginning at 6 PM ET/3 PM PT, just before the opening kickoff. Honorable mentions: Bravo’s city-appropriate The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

WWE Halftime Heat

The WWE returns to its franchise for the first time in 20 years (flashback: Mankind beat The Rock to win the WWE championship in an empty arena during halftime of the Denver Broncos-Atlanta Falcons game in the first event, in 1999). This year’s card to be streamed live also at halftime on WWE’s digital platforms will feature a six-man tag-team match with Aleister Black, Ricochet and Velveteen Dream against NXT champ Tommaso Ciampa, NXT North American champ Johnny Gargano and Adam Cole. Ahead of the main event, previous big NXT matches will stream in a marathon beginning at 2 PM ET/11 AM PT.

Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical

If you’re in New York, how about a Broadway musical/Super Bowl commercial? Michael C. Hall leads a large ensemble cast for the one-off, 30-minute live performance at The Town Hall theater in Times Square. It’s at 1 PM ET (a bit before kickoff). Ticket prices, via Ticketmaster, ranged from $30-$205 (the 1,500-seat venue is sold out, but Deadline’s Greg Evans will be there to review the show). Some proceeds go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Fox Nation: In Depth

Fox News Channel’s recently launched streaming service is banking you won’t be able to stay away from the news cycle for an entire day, so during halftime (8 PM ET/5 PM PT) new correspondent Abby Hornacek will host a behind-the-scenes show spotlighting its best current and upcoming programming. Brian Kilmeade, Diamond & Silk, Tom Shillue, Katie Pavlich and Eric Shawn will join her to showcase their programming.

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