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“Did I just see what I think I saw?”

Privacy freaks have always worried about Tivo, because the company’s technology allows it to closely monitor the viewing patterns of users. But here’s one interesting offshot of the snooping: Tivo executives discovered that the now-infamous Janet Jackson flashing incident was the most-viewed part of the entire Super Bowl — with Tivo users obsessively rewinding and reviewing that moment. It was so popular that it far, far outstripped any moment of actual football. Indeed, it’s the most-replayed moment Tivo has ever measured. As a Tivo press release notes:

The Jackson-Timberlake moment drew the biggest spike in audience reaction TiVo has ever measured. TiVo said viewership spiked up to 180 percent as hundreds of thousands of households used TiVo’s unique capabilities to pause and replay live television to view the incident again and again.

What’s more:

Commercials once again drew a bigger reaction from viewers than any of the action on the field … The ‘wardrobe incident’ during half time was the scene stealer of the Super Bowl,” said Marty Yudkovitz, President of TiVo. “In fact, the half time show during the Super Bowl is now running a close second to the commercials as the most compelling content for viewers. The actual contest on the field continues to be the secondary event during the Super Bowl.”

Of course, we hardly needed more evidence that the Super Bowl is less a game than a pure shot of American consumerism boiled down to a quintessence and freebased directly into the public’s motor cortex. But if we, uh, actually did need more evidence, there it is.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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