The prospects of the unholy union of Comcast and NBC from a sports perspective

There are a few things I don’t get about the Comcast/NBC merger. For one thing, how can Comcast own both its cable system and NBC’s owned-and-operated stations? (Answer: That would have been a problem a decade ago, but not now. Or maybe it is. Still, it’s one of many questions Comcast will have to answer to pass regulatory and Congress muster, and maybe Comcast wants to sell off the NBC network to a third party, as little sense as that seems to make.)

And as for the common notion that having NBC and Versus join forces could start creating a genuine competitor to ESPN… am I the only one who remembers Versus’ Jamie Davis saying back in March he didn’t want to be ESPN? Or would he now say “We didn’t say we didn’t want to compete with ESPN, just that we didn’t want to be ESPN,” even though he was explicitly responding to people’s expectations and Versus may have to drop their “focusing on certain audiences” tack if they want to compete with ESPN? Or would Versus drop its “not ESPN” shtick in a heartbeat given the opportunity, as evidenced by its past plays for NFL and MLB rights? Or maybe “We have a huge opportunity to create another sports brand in America” just as Versus hits a low point with the DirecTV dispute? And how do Versus and Universal Sports fit together, anyway?

Comcast certainly has a lot of resources now. If it can find the right synergy between Versus and Universal Sports, it now has its own equivalent to ESPN2 – though which is which, and whether they’re equals, or even if Comcast wants to emphasize one or two channels as opposed to the whole, I don’t know. (If they’re equals, does the Tour de France move to Universal Sports? It seems to fit that network’s Olympic-sport theme better…) More importantly, it now has its own broadcast network connection, regardless of how strong NBC is, as well as a start on a Spanish-language presence with Telemundo (and its sister mun2). Versus also now has a connection with a general-interest sports news website, and a Versus connection could help build the brand of Those are important bargaining chips in negotiations with sports entities, matching some of the exposure ESPN can give.

Comcast also has some things ESPN doesn’t have, mainly a collection of regional sports networks, though those will help Comcast with the brand more than with national sports rights, as Rupert Murdoch found. (“Oh, ESPN is launching a series of local web sites? Oh look, we already have them!”) It’s anyone’s guess how Comcast SportsNet will benefit from an alliance from NBC and whether it’ll seek greater synergy with Versus and Universal Sports. Those networks could benefit from synergies with NBC stations in the same market. Comcast also has its own video-on-demand service for its cable customers, as well as the Golf Channel. To do: Launch your own version of SportsCenter, get some sort of international presence, get a radio network so you can offer rights there, and overcome the fact that NBC is the only one of the four major networks without a connected college sports network. (Comcast brings the mtn., but that doesn’t count.)

But if Comcast wants to get serious about creating competition for ESPN, they may have an even more uphill climb than most people think, and it’ll be a decade-long process to achieve theoretical parity that’ll also cost a lot of money. It used to be that whoever controlled the NFL cable contract controlled the world of sports, but the BCS deal shows anything not under the scrutiny of Congress could conceivably move to cable, though even there there’s fairly slim pickings. Comcast would need to either somehow pick up a contract on the level of the NFL or BCS (and picking up an NFL contract in addition to ESPN’s is fairly unlikely, and with all their NFL programming and cable ratings records ESPN isn’t giving up their NFL rights without a fight), or find a way to overcome its lack of that kind of big-ticket contract – I don’t see Sunday Night Football moving to cable (unlike some), and the Olympics are not going to give Versus the kind of big-ticket events that draw ratings (most of which are not only already on NBC, but already in primetime).

That means Comcast will need to focus on lots of slightly lesser-ticket events, and that brings me to the blueprint I proposed for an “ESPN killer” in March. (Which seems to suggest look for Golf Channel to pick up the first two rounds of the US Open at the next opportunity…) They will still need at least one major professional sport – and not the Traditional Big Four, which would make the NHL count, but the Modern Big Four, which swaps out the NHL for NASCAR. The NHL counterpoints the NBA and IndyCar counterpoints NASCAR, so baseball – up in 2013 – would be a good fit. ESPN’s partnership with baseball is nearly as deep and long-lasting as its partnership with the NFL, but it seems to be being forced out – after having baseball nearly ubiquitous on the schedule a few years ago, it’s now down to Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday Night Baseball, and no longer shows any postseason games. Comcast could take one (probably Sunday), two (Mon/Wed), or all of those, while making a play for at least some postseason games. If an LCS remains on cable Comcast’s biggest coup would be to take it, giving it much-needed eyeballs. If it can’t get that (though I see this contract as TBS transitioning out of baseball entirely, by having an excuse to dump the Braves), it should go after the Home Run Derby as a consolation prize, consistently one of the highest-rated non-NFL sports events on cable.

Comcast might also be thinking about going after one other sport, just to get one more boost in eyeballs. But if it can’t add the NFL, NBA, or NASCAR, it’s time to start thinking about going after college football – but that opens up a whole new can of worms. NBC brings its Notre Dame contract and Versus already has a deal with the Mountain West and lower-tier Big 12 and Pac-10 games, but generally ESPN gets all the good stuff before Versus, and while Comcast is reportedly thinking about putting some lower-tier Notre Dame games on Versus, Notre Dame would be livid if another college football conference were to share time on NBC. (That could mean Notre Dame and NBC are done after 2015, and maybe then Notre Dame joins a conference.) But Comcast should ideally go after at least three BCS conferences – establishing themselves, at least perceptually, as ESPN’s equal.

Comcast has an interesting opportunity right now (if it’s fine with pissing off Notre Dame), but not a lot of time to take advantage of it (if negotiations aren’t so far along there’s no time at all), and probably can’t wait for the merger to pass regulatory muster (and by merely mentioning this idea out loud I probably doom it not to happen). After seeing the megadeals the SEC and Big Ten received, the Big 12 and Pac-10, finding themselves waiting a year behind the ACC for their share of the pie, have reportedly been thinking about joining with the ACC to form one coast-to-coast college sports network. Here’s an idea: Perhaps Comcast can convince all three of them to abandon ESPN entirely (perhaps one can remain on ABC) and put their games on NBC, Versus, and Universal Sports, plus join with Comcast to form the aforementioned college sports network, convincing them that the three of them combined, with their existing power, can form a college sports television power rivaling ESPN – taking care of your college needs in one fell swoop. Comcast could even take over the Raycom syndication empire and have a college syndication arm to match ESPN Regional Television. This doesn’t give you either of the two conferences that are powers in both football and basketball, the SEC or Big Ten, and it gives you the two weaklings in basketball in the Big 12 and Pac-10, but it does give you the powerhouse conference in basketball, and with it a major coup: the Duke-North Carolina rivalry. What will Dick Vitale do?!?

Versus shuns bowl games right now because it doesn’t fit its “total immersion experience” or something like that. That needs to change if it’s serious about building a college presence and taking on ESPN, and the contracts are on the line pretty much now for the next four years. Tip: The Alamo and Holiday bowls would provide Big 12-Pac-10 matchups. I would also go after either the MAC or Conference USA (the latter is up now, the former in 2016), just to create another even split of the mid-majors, even though that’s more to please me than for any actual ratings. (I’d also go after any two of the WCC (for Gonzaga), the CAA, or Horizon League, for basketball and an even split of those mid-majors, and maybe that College Basketball Invitational or College Insider tournament oddity.)

A union between Comcast and NBC might lead to big changes at Comcast’s sports networks – Dick Ebersol’s expertise might bring the quality of Versus, Golf Channel, and Comcast SportsNet more on par with NBC, and more importantly, ESPN. I also can’t help but wonder if the graphics on Versus shift to be more like the graphics on NBC or Universal Sports, and more consistent. (Versus’ college football and NHL score graphics have never looked very similar. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find modularity between any two of Versus’ sports score graphics, despite theoretically similar overall graphics.) And what happens with the US Olympic Committee? They wanted to launch their own network with Comcast, which raised the hackles of its partners since it didn’t form one with partner NBC or hitch on to Universal Sports. What happens with that project? Does it hitch on to Universal Sports? Does it form a new network with Comcast/NBC, or someone else? If it forms a new network with Comcast/NBC, does most of Universal Sports’ programming move there, clearing the way for US to become “Versus 2” or vice versa? Also, I don’t see any need for Versus to change its name – odd as it sounds, and odd as it sounded at the time, it’s better than “OLN” ever was and kind of fits in its own little way. I can see a contrast between ESPN and “Versus”. Not that I wouldn’t be surprised if Comcast did change the name, but it fits in with such NBCU channels as “Stealth” and “Chiller”.

Things could get very interesting over the next ten years (and potentially just the next five) as Comcast seeks to shake up the sports TV landscape… before the Internet overturns the TV landscape in general.

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!) 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…

You may try, but until you get attention for this you’re not the fifth major.

Day 35 or 36 on the BottomLine Watch. It keeps on turning…

We all know that, among other ways Augusta National is intensely protective of its Masters broadcasts, it forces CBS and now ESPN to use a 1995-ish CBS graphics package for the Masters.

But either NBC has a change to its graphics in the works and its production of the Golf Channel’s coverage of the Players Championship includes graphics, or the Players is just as controlling about its graphics as Augusta.

NBC Graphics at the Players:

NBC’s normal golf graphics:

Golf Channel’s normal graphics:

Rnd.1 Highlights: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am – video powered by Metacafe

Golf Channel using Player’s Championship graphics (you’ll need to get about 42 seconds in or more):

Some sports graphics stuff I’ve been meaning to get to

Day 32 or 33 of the BottomLine Watch, and still the BottomLine remains the “old” BottomLine. Perhaps ESPN’s technicians should experiment less with adding periods to the end of headlines and more with getting the new BottomLine back on the air – assuming they’re still changing it.

TNT has been rather interesting to watch during the playoffs for the experimentation they’ve done with the little line above the box assuring you that yes, this is a playoff game. First, although early in the season words like “OPENING WEEK” or “REMEMBERING MLK” would appear standalone above the box with no background other than the action, at the All-Star Break a long rounded rectangle appeared.

This rounded rectangle continued into the playoffs, alternating between “2009 PLAYOFFS” and some indication of where the series stood…

…but the indication of where the series stood quickly changed to look similar to the “2009 PLAYOFFS” logo, instead of plain white text on a dark grey background. Why? My guess: readability.

That’s not the end to the changes! Just in time for Celtics-Bulls Game 7 came another change, with “2009 PLAYOFFS” gone entirely…

…and for the Conference Semifinals, it’s now alternating between “2009 EAST/WEST SEMIFINALS” and the same indication of the status of the series as before.

Maybe this will actually remain constant through TNT’s coverage of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Finally, Versus introduced a new banner for its coverage of the NHL’s Conference Semifinals.

I have to say, it looks a lot more professional – the font isn’t right out of ESPN’s graphics early this decade, and the team logos aren’t standing alone and hovering over slightly turned-to-the-side circles in a way that just screams “cheapo operation”… too bad the banner was the ONLY thing that changed, and all the other graphics look exactly the same, creating jarring dissonance. If you’re going to change your graphics package, change it ALL AT ONCE. You couldn’t wait until next season? (Assuming they ARE going to change the rest of the graphics…) And what are those things on the side in HD? You couldn’t just have the stripes extend across the whole screen, you had to put doodads on the sides?

(I hold out hope this will mean Versus’ hockey, college football, and college basketball graphics will actually look like one another, and the IndyCar graphics will have at least a superficial resemblance, but who knows?)

(Can someone explain to me why every YouTube video of an IndyCar race I can find is either direct from and lacks any graphics, or has what appears to be an international or online graphic directly based on the graphics ESPN used last year, not the Versus graphics? I found one video after the first race that would work IF it didn’t somehow manage to avoid showing the banner at all. It’s a shame, as Versus has tweaked the graphics somehow after just about every race, mostly in ways having to do with the display of positioning for “on-board” cameras, which was impossible to read for double-digit positions in Race 1.)

Sports Graphics Roundup Part II: Baseball and Other Things

We’re on Day 12 of the ESPN BottomLine Watch, and last I checked the BottomLine was still in its old ways. I wonder if anyone has a specific time that the BottomLine reverted to its old ways last Monday the 6th – I’d like to keep a running count.

One reason I didn’t like being cut short on my last post was that I still had one graphical matter yet to be taken care of, and it related to ESPN, which has introduced a new NASCAR banner. I had thought the inspiration was Fox’s NASCAR banner, but now I suspect the real inspiration was an attempt to get a headstart on making the new banner take after MNF.

The main problem I have with it came to me while I was watching the above race live, and it’s the real reason I think this is an attempt to go MNF style: when showing stats like intervals behind the leader, those stats are not shown on a separate line below the scroll, but actually incorporated into the scroll itself, so you might see (for the sake of example) 5. (88) EARNHARDT JR.  -1.24, instead of the “-1.24” being on a separate line. “RUNNING ORDER” is also replaced with “INTERVALS” for this purpose, and the leader just lacks an interval, meaning at the start of the scroll the lengths each driver gets vary WIDELY. I prefer at least the appearance of each driver getting the same amount of space on the scroll. But because of the amount of information that needs to be presented, I can see how it might be difficult to properly convert the NASCAR strip for the MNF-inspired hub. Still, here’s a mockup I made; other than being larger than the real thing probably would be, and the rather stunning paucity of driver logos online in any context, and the fact I probably still don’t have the exact fonts, I think it came out well enough I’d be surprised not to see ESPN adopt a variant of this, to the extent I may have gotten myself AND ESPN in legal trouble at some point down the road.

On to baseball, and we start on the national level, with a move with an impact on other sports. In something of a surprise, Fox has adopted the new FSN score bug for baseball broadcasts – a score bug I had thought was intended to match Fox’s own new graphics. In that sense it’s something of a throwback, both to the era when Fox used boxes and not strips, and to those intermittent times when Fox has made a conscious effort to match the FSN graphics. In a more general sense it’s also a throwback to the era when replacing the count AND number of outs with the pitch speed all at once was the norm.

The dissonance between the amount of space taken up by the count and number of outs, and the amount of space taken up by the inning, makes me wonder why the count and number of outs didn’t get a column to itself. But baseball is probably the hardest sport to create a graphic for, especially one originally designed for another sport, unless you have the simplest of strips, because of the sheer amount of information required – in fact I suspect Fox’s move to this was the result of frustration with how last year’s strip turned out. In this case I suspect taking a cue from FSN’s football and hockey (and soccer) bug was called for; I suspect the lack of use of that for basketball and football points to disillusionment with the new horizontal bug. Again, the fonts and sizes are WAY off in this mockup, and I couldn’t quite get the base display to look right.

MLB Network is on the air as well, but I couldn’t find an embeddable highlight. This will have to make do:

This is what happens when score bug designers don’t have to blend baseball and other-sport priorities. One oddity: Apparently taking a cue from the MNF hub, MLB Network has the bug change to display stats about batters, instead of having a separate graphic at the bottom of the screen, despite the bug being on top. Bit weird, that one.
Comcast SportsNet hasn’t changed its graphics, but its current graphics and logo got its start at SNY, Comcast’s collaboration with the New York Mets, so it may be in for new graphics since SNY has changed its graphics package. Helpfully, SNY provided a mockup for SportsBusiness Journal for an article that was briefly free before the season, so I don’t have to go hunting for a highlight:

The good news is that it adopts a trend I’ve always liked: adding the team logos to the strip. (What I’ve really liked is the logo-only approach once experimented with by Fox on its NFL coverage and now only used by NFL Network, but there’s a reason Fox didn’t stick with it.) The bad news – and it’s not really clear on this thumbnail – is that it’s rather bulky, with large, separated, square elements embedded in a rectangular banner.

What else? We can look at the new graphics for NESN and MASN. So many team-owned RSNs try to get experimental with their graphics and fail. I’m talking to you, SportsTime Ohio. Neither of these two RSNs fell into that trap. MASN only tweaked its graphics and NESN gave them a nice, professional, parallelogram look. (However, I’ve seen evidence that the banner is the only thing NESN changed.)

Back to racing: Versus has an excellent banner for IndyCar races but I’m not finding it on the Web anywhere. We can also confirm that ESPN will whip out its new graphics for coverage of the NFL Draft, complete with the new BottomLine, but since the Draft ticker is handled differently than the BottomLine proper I don’t read anything into this other than the new BottomLine hasn’t been abandoned entirely, which makes it all the more frustrating it’s taking so long to come back in full.

Sports Graphics Roundup Part I: ESPN

I’ve been anticipating a potential update of ESPN’s game graphics to coincide with the debut of a new graphics package for SportsCenter – if not for that, at least in anticipation of picking up the BCS and in case they want to pick up March Madness. ESPN’s graphics have started to feel almost painfully generic, and an update – perhaps one that would adopt the recently-popular convention of putting each team’s name or abbreviation on a background with the team’s respective color – was much needed.

The current package, which started getting phased in with MNF and the NBA in 2006, was desperately needed to keep ABC sports broadcasts from looking like cable games. It was very spiffy in its day, and until ESPN updated SportsCenter’s graphics it was far spiffier than the studio show graphics that (except for GMC NBA Countdown on ABC) remained unchanged. Look at any ABC college football broadcast from 2006 to see how necessary it was. But it now looks behind the times.

Here’s a mockup I did of what a new package might have looked like for March Madness. These aren’t the exact fonts I envisioned – Arial Narrow and Calibri are the closest I have on my laptop – and I don’t have anything more advanced than PowerPoint for spiffier effects, but you get the idea. It looks pretty close to what I had in mind, with perhaps some scaffolding on the sides and clearer borders between elements, popping in with a flash of light and color, and all looking very elegant.

What ESPN actually came up with, as debuting on NBA broadcasts this week,was somewhat similar to what I had in mind… but I sure as hell wasn’t anticipating basically a straight rip of the MNF graphics, complete with “all information in the bottom space” gimmick. Especially given the new graphics ESPN had introduced for tennis, which was my main inspiration for the above.

There are two major differences with the MNF graphics that work to its detriment; while they may serve to mark MNF’s version as the strip ESPN wants to make feel special (see the “orb” of 2006-07), they also serve to make it look like crap. First, rather than reserve the entire bottom of the screen for graphics, ESPN is throwing all graphics, including its score banner, into a simple rectangle, which merely changes its size as various elements pop in and out. It looks less elegant when it has to stand alone. But perhaps more importantly – and comprehensible for other sports but less so for the NBA, which lacks a BottomLine unless it’s bumped to the Deuce – the bottom line, the part either reading “NBA Wednesday” or showing stats, does not utilize the space that would be used by the BottomLine. Those two elements combine to make it look like a two-line strip, which makes it look bulkier. The use of what appears to be Arial or Helvetica for the bottom line reading “NBA Wednesday” (a possible holdover from the old strip) doesn’t help.

That mockup I did above? Comes from before the new SportsCenter package debuted. I’d have come up with something very different after I got a good look at the new SportsCenter graphics. Since 2006 ESPN’s game graphics have looked spiffier than its studio show graphics. That relationship may now be reversing. Incidentially, across all its platforms, I wonder what ESPN’s most watched shows are, games or studio shows?

It’ll look relatively nice on ABC, and in some ways it’s a throwback to the strip used in the last year of ABC Sports (remember those atrocious numbers? I think I blocked them out)…

…but I can’t help but think they could have done a lot better. The single method for showing the score going to and coming back from break was needed, but it kinda makes ESPN look cheap. At any rate it’s odd that they would choose the instant of the introduction of the new SportsCenter graphics for the new strip, especially with no other ESPN studio shows, including NBA ones, adopting the new graphics yet; the new NBA graphics not looking anything like the SportsCenter graphics; and the BottomLine’s graphical update lasting all of a morning. Couldn’t they have waited, say, two weeks for the playoffs like they did when they introduced the gold border to the NBA strip? (And counting that border, ABC’s streak of never having the same graphics for the Finals in two consecutive years continues!)

(I may try to watch GMC NBA Countdown on Sunday to see the new graphics in a studio show context…)

While we’re in ESPN-land, it appears Sports Media Watch has been horning in on my turf! SMW has been giving full coverage to the rollout of the new SportsCenter graphics, going so far as to get quotes from ESPN spokesmen. (Bloggers doing actual exclusive reporting, and not just one of the big blogs like Deadspin or Fanhouse either? Shock! Horror!) And SMW has just reported the official explanation for the new BottomLine disappearing: “technical complications”. I guess I can buy that explanation. A few seconds into its existence, on ESPN, the new BottomLine started fritzing out and going into a short loop, then disappeared for a while. It made another disappearing act later as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if ESPN were fitting it out with new functionality, such as showing the time during ESPN2’s morning shows, “SportsCenter on this other channel” in the same space (I saw “Baseball Tonight on ESPN2” on Monday in fact), various alerts moving into the space such as “BREAKING NEWS”, “PROGRAM ALERT”, or Baseball Tonight’s “TODAY’S SCORES AND HOME RUNS”, or appropriating it for ESPN’s 18/58 updates.

But if all of those were already ready (or in the case of the first, discarded), the BottomLine seemed to be working pretty well aside from occasional glitches, and if they weren’t ready that’s pretty short-sighted. At any rate, why is it taking so long? And how much testing of the BottomLine did they do, anyway?

I’m going to be finding the timetable of rollout of the new graphics very interesting, at any rate. According to the more recent SMW post there’s “no timetable” for rollout of the new game graphics, but based on past experiences I would be surprised if it didn’t hew to the following timetable: baseball no later than the start of next season (both ESPN and FSN have been known to make midseason updates to graphics, ESPN for the c. 2004 update, but on the other hand in 2007 Fox didn’t update its graphics to conform to the new NFL style by then adopted by NASCAR even for the postseason), golf possibly as soon as the US Open but maybe not until the British or even next year, NASCAR and the Indy 500… see Part II, horse racing either this year or next (mayyyybe for the Breeder’s Cup), college sports are more likely to see a rollout sooner than last time given the time frame but the main determining factor may be whether ESPN is pressured to move the BCS to/keep it on ABC after next year (a boy can dream), most other sports next year, soccer maybe never.

It’s getting late, so although I had something more comprehensive in mind, that’ll wait for later.

Miscellaneous Notes on ESPN’s New Graphics

The death of ESPN2 continues. At least on the SD feed, even the BottomLine is marked as simply “ESPN”. About the only indication that this channel is not ESPN is when programs are promoted as being on ESPN2.

A bit odd seeing the new BottomLine alongside the old graphics on Mike and Mike and First Take on ESPN2. Apparently the new graphics will be starting out on SportsCenter only, and ESPN will effectively have three graphics packages: one for SportsCenter, one for games, and one for other studio shows. (I haven’t seen any studio shows since First Take, though.)

Funny story on the BottomLine. The old BottomLine was changed shortly after its introduction, at least in SD; apparently the first version wasn’t legible enough. For that reason, whenever changing to a new topic, such as from “NFL” to “GOLF”, the BottomLine would show a scroll of four sports – with each pair of sports separated by space enough for another sport.

The new BottomLine is actually designed for the font size it’s using, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem, if at all, compared to the old version – except they found space for a larger, less scrunched font for the sport identifier, and now the sport-switch graphic shows six or so sports. It’s also less utilitarian and square, but it’s not really obvious that it’s a parallelogram.

Though I liked when the old BottomLine would shrink the size of the score in order to show stats, and it looks like that’s not happening anymore…

Here’s the funny part: I only saw the morning SportsCenter with its PTI-style rundown, but I suspect the new main graphics for SportsCenter will attract its own concerns of having too small a font size!

You know this isn’t an April Fool’s joke because it’s an update on a previous post.

Honestly, I wasn’t planning to have more than the Random Internet Discovery today…

So Awful Announcing has an early look at the new SportsCenter graphics and intro and… it’s basically a modified version of the ESPNEWS graphics. The new intro looks rather spiffy though:

SportsCenter Opening Animation from ESPN Communications on Vimeo.

Neither AA nor ESPN’s press site has “regular” graphics for talking heads and the like, but you really have to see the graphics up close to appreciate them. There’s actually a slight parallelogram look to the Bottom Line, and some sort of beveling effect going on down there as well.

Still intend to get up early on Monday to see it in action.

Okay, I have to check this out.

Sometime next week, you’re going to get a sports TV graphics roundup and review.

Because SportsCenter is overhauling its graphics package.

I may wake up slightly before 6 AM on Monday just to see it debut. I wonder if this is a sign that SportsCenter and other ESPN programs are (finally) moving to the graphics package that has populated ESPN’s actual sporting events since the debut of MNF on ESPN (and been ubiquitous on them since April 2007)?

Or… is it an entirely new graphics package, and I need to watch baseball’s Opening Night the previous night to see if it makes its “real” debut there?