Monday, September 16, 2013

Couldn't Fox Tell Us What We Missed?

Technical difficulties are, as they say in the sports world, part of the game. But Fox Sports did not have to make them as "difficult" as they did on Sunday (9/15) for NFL viewers watching, or trying to watch, their regional NFL telecast between the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings.

This telecast had problems ranging from not having any on-screen graphics to a complete loss of the feed during play throughout much of its telecast on a rainy day in Chicago. I certainly understand that things go wrong from time to time, and probably had as much or more patience than most fans while watching this telecast unfold. Personally, I have had my share of things go wrong while on the air from a game and in the studio producing a broadcast. It happens.

However, my problem with Fox Sports on this one is because of elements they COULD control, but didn't. People sharp enough to have network jobs should have enough experience to be able to improvise in order to help the viewers deal with the problems. But Fox did not.

There was a stretch of several minutes during the second quarter of the game during which the telecast did not have any graphics on the screen, including not having the score box at all. That means that viewers who just tuned in or were also watching other games could not see the current score and the amount of time remaining. Those who had been watching likely knew the score, but also had no idea of the time remaining in the quarter and other pertinent information also included within the "Fox box".

Again, I understand that technical problems can happen. Thom Brennaman, the play-by-play voice for this game, did apologize several times for the technical difficulties and was more than fair in acknowledging them. Of course, with the game score and time remaining constantly on the screen week after week, I can even excuse Brennaman for not providing the time remaining and game score more often. Even though he, as a broadcaster with so many years of experience, should have known to do so.

My issue is more with the producer(s). With all of the cameras available, one of them should have been focused on the stadium scoreboard, which shows the game score and the ticking clock with time remaining. That is all they had to do to cover up this "technical difficulty". Just show the stadium scoreboard between plays. Brennaman wouldn't have to changed anything he was saying. Instead, viewers had little to no idea how much time remained in the 2nd quarter, and many viewers were not aware of the score of the game for several minutes at a time in real time. That doesn't cut it.

Late in the second quarter, the "difficulties" got worse. The video feed went out completely forcing Fox to go with an over-the-phone version of Brennaman's play-by-play. Worse yet, even though Thom kept apologizing for the glitches, he continued along doing TV style play-by-play instead of going to a radio style knowing people could not see everything they usually do.

But there was more. During the last three minutes of the first half, in a tight game, Fox lost the feed entirely. No video or audio. With a longer first half than most other games, this feed was switched to the Fox NFL Today studio for their half time highlights, with Kurt Menefee telling viewers "Those of you watching Minnesota at Chicago - we'll get you back there as soon as we can". Viewers missed a Bears drive which led to a field goal giving them the lead.

Yet, when the live feed returned, all viewers got was a recap of the scoring play. We were not told how many plays were missed, or anything about key plays on the scoring drive. As if it was "too bad" and Fox couldn't be bothered. Then, along came halftime, and viewers got the "regular" NFL game highlights. They didn't even take any time to recap the scoring drive they missed, instead sticking with their usual format.

This was the case for viewers around the country, whether watching the local telecast in Chicago, on a Fox affiliate, or via Sunday Ticket.

Sorry, but this refusal to keep viewers better informed than they easily could have is by far worse than the technical glitch. Fans are entitled to better, considering all of the money it costs us all each month to watch these games.

Maybe they should stop spending so much time promoting their sports networks with mostly filler programming and concentrate on getting the big stuff right.

Meanwhile, it looks like CBS Radio Sports is doing a solid job with keeping interest in their New York City sports stations in a favorable light. It appears that even CBS Radio executives now realize that the Sports Network idea is not going to take off like they somehow thought. Their pipe dream of pulling local WFAN 660 programming off and moving it over to 101.9 FM so that they could stick their national programming on 660 would have been a huge disaster.

In order to make adding 101.9 a positive, as they see it, WFAN went ahead with what is believed to be $15 million per season to put the Yankees broadcasts on 660 (from CBS sister station 880 AM) starting next season. The press release went on to make it look like a big deal that the Yankees will have both an AM and an FM signal for their broadcasts, as if it was a horrible thing they haven't had this yet.

The real advantage that hyping the 101.9 version of WFAN is that it helps for local fans to know to tune into the FM signal during conflicts, since WFAN also carries the Giants and Devils broadcasts. This really means that WFAN will not have to farm out any of its local broadcasts. That is a nice feature for local fans, but hardly what CBS had in mind when they thought they could just put a national network out there and listeners would flock to it. The ratings for most of the CBS Radio Sports affiliates around the country have generally been poor all year.

CBS-TV has announced moving college basketball analyst Greg Anthony out of the studio and into its lead analyst role, working at games along with Jin Nantz starting with the upcoming season. Clark Kellogg will move into the studio analyst role on most days, but the word is that Kellogg will work at a few of the actual game telecasts as well.

WEST PALM BEACH: WUUB 106.3, licensed to nearby Jupiter, becomes ESPN 106.3, allowing WEFL 760 AM and its limited signal to change over to ESPN Deportes from ESPN Radio.

KELSO WA: KLOG 1490 dropped its music format last week and suddenly became ESPN 1490, now airing ESPN programming except for morning drive and regional play-by-play. John Mitchell and Kirc Rolland remain with "The Morning Show" and both a news and sports focus. The station continues to air Mariners baseball, NBA Portland Trailblazers, and University of Washington football and basketball games.

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