I’m sure the only reason the pigs aren’t airborne is because it’s heavy overcast.

Day 94 of the BottomLine watch. Over three months since an ESPN spokesperson told Sports Media Watch the new BottomLine would be back “soon”. I’m starting to think it may not come back at all, or at the very least it’ll probably be another six months…

…what’s that? What’s that thing at the bottom of the screen? The… the new BottomLine is back! I knew it was only a matter of time! Naturally I have some thoughts:

  • When the BottomLine first disappeared I gave a list of some things that maybe they were adjusting it for. It certainly appears it now has “SCORE ALERT” functionality, but it also has a bunch of graphic spiffiness involving the divider between the score and stats – which, while I liked the shrinking of the score, if adopting that functionality is part of the reason the return of the BottomLine took so long, they need to take another look at their priorities.
  • Looks like ESPN2 isn’t losing the last vestiges of its identity after all, as the ESPN2 BottomLine still says “ESPN2”, albeit because my SD TV has problems with centering (or that could just be my cable box) it’s partly cut off. They’re clearly locating both logos differently vis-a-vis the right side of the screen (and each other) compared to the old BottomLine.
  • It appears that, regardless of program, it’s simply “ESPN BottomLine” except on SportsCenter. Granted, I only noticed the change on Jim Rome Is Burning, Around The Horn, and PTI, not on studio shows like NFL Live and Baseball Tonight.
  • Why is it, say, “RANGERS VS ORIOLES” for baseball when a game hasn’t started yet, but for, say, the Gold Cup, it’s “USA” and “HONDURAS” in separate boxes as though showing the score, as in the old BottomLine? If it’s to condense the display to show when a game is on an ESPN network and 360, why is it condensed for the other baseball games, and why isn’t it condensed for soccer? Personally I prefer the separate-boxes approach, the other way is just gimmicky…

While we’re here, let’s take a look at other developments in the world of sports graphics:

Remember when Versus introduced a new banner at the NHL Conference Semifinals? Well, for the Conference Finals, and continuing through its Stanley Cup Finals games, Versus changed its banner. Again. So, which was the banner they originally intended to adopt for the long haul? Was the change a response to people’s criticism of the old banner, or was the old banner always a placeholder until the new one was ready and they were too embarrassed about the previous banner to wait?

Or is this the placeholder while Versus updates the other graphics? Because if there’s one thing that marks this graphic, it’s the return of the old fonts. Beyond that, the main features are the addition of black-on-white boxes for the period number and time left in the period.

Meanwhile, it’s official: the gray, two-line box is becoming a trend. Fox adopted it not only for FSN, but for its own baseball broadcasts as well, and ESPN turned it into a strip; now TBS has joined in on the fun. But TBS seems to be insanely protective of its video; not only can’t I find any video of the new TBS box online that I can embed, ESPN and other outlets (even MLB.com!) use local feeds for their highlights of TBS games (which means there aren’t even any highlights I can’t embed). But they can’t shake this forever, and you will see a full analysis of the TBS box come this October.

In tennis, ESPN moved the banner it introduced at the Australian Open to the top of the screen at the French for some reason. Somehow I think that wasn’t the only change; the strip seems bigger for some reason. Whatever it is, it seems more amateur.

At Wimbledon, however, perhaps as a result of realizing that the banner was potentially confusing and maybe even in preparation of transitioning tennis onto the new MNF-styled banner, ESPN rolled out a small, compact box, but kept the “scoreboard” aspect of, among other things, showing deuce as 40-40 by placing the points alongside the game count and abandoning server-first order entirely (again). It’s a big improvement over the Australian/French banner in my opinion, one of the better tennis graphics ESPN has yet tried that isn’t a carbon copy of the norm in this country.

It appears ESPN took one lesson from the world feed, but not the one I suggested last year upon seeing their abomination of a Wimbledon graphic – the points display here is similar to that used by the world feed. All that’s left is showing number of sets instead of score of sets and abbreviating last names! Okay, not so much…

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