ESPN debuts new graphics during college bowl games

ESPN is phasing in a new graphics package, first unveiled at the start of the College Bowl season in mid December. The new graphics so far have only surfaced for select Bowl games. For example, today’s ESPN 2 broadcast of the Outback Bowl was still using the older graphics package. Today’s Cotton Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl broadcasts had the new graphics.

The new look resemble the new graphics used for “SportsCenter,” which debuted over the summer. Much like the new NBC Sports graphics unveiled today, the new ESPN graphics are bigger, bolder and shinier, obviously meant to take full advantage of large high definition displays.

With new graphics comes a new score bug, which is positioned in the lower-right corner of the screen. The score bug is big, if also not somewhat awkwardly designed. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the new score graphic, but its design allows for some wasted space, specifically to the right of the game’s score digits. The waste of space is relevant because real estate on any screen is limited, meaning graphics should be designed to convey necessary information that is easy to read, while using any allocated space as efficiently as possible.

One component about the new score bug I do like are the pop-up graphics that surface above the score bug to show added information relevant to what’s happening on the screen (i.e. the player who just scored the touchdown). Assuming this graphics package is eventually used for all other live sporting events, it will be interesting to see how it is implemented for other sports, specifically basketball and baseball.

The below screen shots, from both the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl show various uses of the new ESPN graphics package.

New ESPN graphics - 2015 College Bowl PlayoffNew ESPN graphics - 2015 College Bowl Playoff

New ESPN graphics - 2015 College Bowl Playoff

New ESPN graphics - 2015 College Bowl Playoff

New ESPN graphics - 2015 College Bowl Playoff

NBC Sports unveils new graphics for 2015

With the new year, NBC Sports unveiled an updated graphics package for today’s NHL Winter Classic on NBC and the English Premiere League on NBCSN. While clearly inspired by the previous graphics, the new package is no doubt bigger and bolder with curved sides, fully meant to take full advantage of large high definition television screens.

While the new graphics were used for both the Winter Classic and the English Premiere League, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be used for all live NBC sporting events just yet. It is possible that they will be rolled out in phases, much like how Fox, CBS and ESPN do when rolling out new graphics (ESPN has been rolling out new graphics during select college bowl games). We should have a better idea Saturday night with NBC’s NFL wildcard broadcast. NBC is broadcasting this year’s SuperBowl, so it would make sense to implement the new graphics for the largest televised broadcast of the year (in contrast, Fox Sports implemented new graphics just after broadcasting last year’s SuperBowl).

It’s also worth noting that the NBC Sports graphics have also been used for live events on the Comcast SportsNet regional networks, part of the NBC Sports Group, since 2012. Will these new graphics be rolled out for the CSN networks or will they be exclusively for NBC and NBCSN?

The previous NBC Sports graphics were my all-time favorite. They were well designed for both function and looks. They displayed the necessary information during a live games without ever being distracting or appearing awkward. They were absolutely beautiful as far as color with the right amount of gradient and the added sparkle effect.

As for the new graphics, after one game, I have no complaints about them functionality wise. As for looks, they lose some of the flair the previous set had. I’m not fond of the silver sided curves, while in some cases, some smaller text sloppily positioned. I’m not saying that I don’t like them — they do look very nice and have a nice polish — I just initially don’t like them as much as the previous set. There is a chance that NBC may still tweak these graphics as they get more use, and there is the chance they will grow on me once I get used to them.

You can judge the new graphics for yourself via the below photos.

NBC Sports Graphics - New 2015 - Open

Open for the NHL Winter Classic on NBC.

NBC Sports Graphics - New 2015 - Player Name Graphic

New NBC Sports graphics package nameplate for identifying players and stats. Compare to previous graphics.

NBC Sports Graphics - New 2015 - Score Bug

New NBC Sports score bug during NHL Winter Classic.

NBC Sports Graphics - New 2015 - Intermission Score Graphic

New NBC Sports graphic showing the score at the first intermission.

NBC Sports Graphics - New 2015 - Studio Hosts

New NBC Sports graphic identifying NHL on NBC studio hosts.

Screenshot: New Fox Sports graphics appear on MLB broadcast

New Fox Sports MLB Graphics 2014

Screenshot from RadioInsight via Twitter – @RadioInsight

Above is a screenshot, courtesy of RadioInsight, showing new graphics for a Fox Sports MLB broadcast. They are the same graphics Fox rolled out in February for NASCAR.

I think the graphics as shown during a NASCAR broadcast are more on the bland side — and judging from only this lone screenshot, they will probably be as bland when used for baseball (and presumably football, this fall). I also wonder what’s up with the “Fox Box” in the lower-left corner of the screen (ESPN’s score bug has been placed in the lower-right for a few years now).

The lower-left seems like an odd place for it. Talk about trying to reinvent the wheel when there’s no reason to. I’ll reserve full judgement on placement of the “Fox Box” and the graphics until seeing them in full use — with today being baseball’s opening day, these graphics will likely roll out on the rest of the regional Fox Sports channels that house local MLB games.

Fox Sports debuts new graphics – NASCAR broadcasts only so far (photos)

New Fox Sports Graphics

NASCAR qualifying race on Fox Sports 1. Fox debuts new graphics package.

After happening to turn on NASCAR qualifying on Fox Sports 1 last weekend, I noticed that Fox was using an entirely new set of on-screen graphics.

What is so surprising about this is that Fox waited until now to debut a new graphics package after just launching Fox Sports 1, their new 24/7 all-sports network, in August. If there was ever an appropriate time to unveil new graphics, it would have been while launching the new network, which happened to closely coincide with the start of the NFL season (and on a year when they were broadcasting the SuperBowl).

Fox Sports typically launches a new set of graphics every three or four years, usually on years they do have the SuperBowl. It’s out of character for Fox to wait until the start of NASCAR season — and after just broadcasting the SuperBowl — to switch to a new graphics package.

So far, the only Fox Sports broadcasts using the new graphics is NASCAR. Any UFC or college basketball that’s aired on any Fox Sports broadcast (including Fox Sports 1 and the regional Fox Sports channels) in the last week and a half have continued using the existing set of graphics. There is always the possibility that the new graphics will be used only for NASCAR, while Fox either continues to use the existing graphics for everything else, or create a new set of graphics for each sport.

My bet is the new graphics will eventually be used for all Fox Sports broadcasts. While some networks roll out new graphics for everything all at once, Fox in years past, has opted not to roll out new graphics for a specific sportsuntil the start of its season. If that were the case in this scenario, then we should see the new graphics in use for either MLB spring training games or at the start of the regular season (Fox Sports 1 will carry a handful of spring training games while several Fox Sports regional channels will air their home team’s spring training games; regular season games on Fox begin in late May).

Fox Sports Graphics - College Basketball

The graphics package Fox Sports has been using on all sports broadcast since 2010 — this graphics package continues to be used for any non-NASCAR live-sporting event shown on Fox and Fox Sports 1.

From what I’ve seen of the new Fox Sports graphics so far, I’m disappointed, not because the new graphics are bad, but because the previous set was were nearly perfect. I don’t quite understand why Fox thought now was the time to potentially get rid of them (one potential reason is Fox acquiring the rights to the U.S. Open — even if that were the reason, that isn’t until 2015).

While the new graphics do have a modern and somewhat stylish look to them, I still can’t help think they look bland. The previous graphics were nicely crafted with a reasonable mix of rounded edges and various slants that accommodated the vibrant colors. The new graphics are more rectangular and often rely on the use of single colors (which is especially noticeable, and awkward looking, with blues and reds).

Between the shape, the choice of fonts and the use of sparkles, I can’t help think that the new Fox graphics are a cheap ripoff of the current graphics used on NBC Sports broadcasts (including NBCSN and the regional Comcast SportsNet channels). The subtle use of moving sparkles is also suspiciously reminiscent of NBC’s graphics (the sparkles do add some much needed flair to the otherwise boring Fox graphics).

The current NBC Sports graphics are absolutely beautiful. While the design is nothing out of the ordinary, the smart use of color gradients and their own use of sparkles make them extremely classy. The new Fox graphics don’t even come close.

New Fox Sports Graphics

Updated Fox Sports graphics include a newly designed ticker for keeping track of current standings throughout the race. Though hard to tell in this screen shot, the name plate graphic shows the subtle use of sparkles, which is reminiscent of the current NBC Sports graphics (see below photo).

nbc-sports-graphics-2012_nfl

The current set of graphics used on all NBC Sports, NBCSN and regional Comcast SportsNet broadcasts.

NHL on NBC Sports Graphics

Another example of the current NBC Sports graphics.

Concerning NASCAR, another problem I have with the new Fox graphics are the lack of custom car numbers. While numbers don’t have much meaning in team sports, they do in NASCAR, where a driver’s number is uniquely designed so that it can be used as a standalone logo. Many of the Fox graphics show the driver’s number generically. This is especially noticeable in the new Fox ticker that identifies the current standings of the race, where you have a series of driver names and numbers that don’t easily pop out, making it harder to consistently follow the driver’s standings.

Speaking of the new standings ticker, Fox was already forced to make adjustments to it after last week’s qualifying races. Originally, Fox had the ticker positioned to the right of the screen. Viewers complained that the new ticker was in the way while trying to watch the race. Fox moved it to the top (where it had been in previous years) for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (last year’s graphic for the current standings was not only at the top, but also scrolled across the screen).

fox-sports-nascar-qualifying-graphic-right-side-feb-2014

NASCAR qualifying race from Feb. 15, 2014 — Fox Sports debuts new graphics with driver standings graphic on the right-side of the screen. Turned out to be an unpopular decision.

Not long after the Daytona 500 started, I was wondering if I might be too hard on the new Fox graphics. Then, the rain started and the race was delayed, so Fox decided to re-air last year’s Daytona 500 broadcast. Last year’s race was using the previous graphics, allowing me to easily compare this year’s vs. last year’s. A few minutes was all I needed… there simply was no comparison. The previous graphics are far superior (see below photo).

New Fox Sports Graphics - NASCAR

Fox Sports graphics package from the 2013 Daytona 500 – far superior all-round compared to Fox’s new set of graphics.

fox-sports-superbowl-2011-graphics-and-fox-box

Another example of the previous Fox Sports graphics, from SuperBowl XLV. Being a Packers fan, I just couldn’t resist using this screenshot as an example.

Perhaps, I shouldn’t fully judge the new graphics until seeing them on other sporting events. If Fox does use them for other sports, it will be interesting to see how they are implemented for baseball and football. Previously, Fox has been guilty of over-thinking seemingly simple concepts and the results have been disastrous (last weekend’s ticker on the right-side of the screen is just one example; another was the attempt to identify quarters by the number of tiny dots lit on the “Fox Box” during a NFL pre-season game several years ago).

Below are a few additional views of the new graphics package from Sunday’s Daytona 500…

New Fox Sports Graphics - NASCAR

New Fox Sports Graphics - NASCAR

#INeedALife

Best selection of radio Christmas music

Best Christmas music

It bothers me that so many young people who are connected to the world via their smart phones still chose to listen to whatever generic, “PPM friendly” Christmas station is available via terrestrial. In Chicago, everyone flocks to Clear Channel’s WLIT-FM (93.9). Many of these people probably aren’t aware of the better alternatives available and that they can utilize them via their smart phone, even while driving. Many of these free alternatives have far expanded playlist and are either commercial free or have limited commercials.

Below is a list of some of my favorite sources for Christmas music.

AccuRadio
AccuRadio has a variety of different Christmas channels via live stream. With dedicated channels for classic, jazz, children, country, etc., you’re sure to find a channel just right for you.

Sky.FM
My favorite might be the Sky.FM Christmas Channel. The playlist varies from new to classic. What makes this station very unique is the many different versions of songs that I have never heard of before. There is also a higher emphasis on the more relaxed type of Christmas songs, which is why I listen to Sky.FM’s channel the most.

WLRA-FM
WLRA-FM, the Lewis University student-run station. From Thanksgiving to New Years Day each year, the station runs 24/7 commercial free Christmas music. Their playlist includes a mix of modern and classic songs. Promotional messages are played a handful of times each hour promoting the United Way of Will County. The station stream is available on popular radio apps such as iHeartRadio and Tune In Radio, via the WLRA mobile app or via the Lewis University website. Of course, for anyone in the Romeoville/Joliet area, you can listen on the dial on 88.1 FM.

SiriusXM
SiriusXM has their own collection of fun Christmas channels, as well. Much like AccuRadio, SiriusXM has a selection of dedicated Christmas channels. These are also commercial free.

Google Play Music All Access and Spotify
Of course you can’t go wrong with full customization and the open-ended exploration provided by any of the music streaming services.

Please, people. If you have a smart phone or are by a computer all-day, spare yourself from the typical terrestrial garbage of a WLIT or any other Christmas radio station plagued with an abundance of commercials and a limited playlist.

By no means is the above list the end-all for good Christmas music listening. If you know of any other options worth considering, please share it by posting a comment below.

Awfully awkward: How else would I attempt to describe tonight’s Fox 32 newscast?

Craig Wall, Fox 32 News Chicago

Fox 32’s Craig Wall covering storm damage, live in Washington, IL. Minutes later, he was back in studio for a “Chicago’s Most Wanted” segment.

I don’t know what the hell I just watched, but apparently, it was supposed to be a primetime newscast in the nation’s third largest market.

Well, WFLD-TV/Fox 32 sure had me fooled…

– Tammie Souza’s recap of today’s severe weather was plagued with 30 to 40 seconds of on-and-off audio crumbling.

– While reporter Craig Wall went blue on camera during a newscast last week (figuratively, of course), tonight he was in two places at nearly the same time. Near the bottom-half of the newscast, Wall was live at Washington, IL reporting on storm damage; minutes later, he was in studio for the Chicago’s Most Wanted segment, without any acknowledgement of Wall’s alleged super human powers (or that the segment was previously recorded).

– With severe weather seemingly front and center on most people’s mind, it seemed highly appropriate that Fox 32, smack dab in the middle of the broadcast, would air a feature on a “pot sniffer” in Colorado — a story with no relevance or interest to anyone watching in Chicago, on this night or any night.

– A promo for “Good Day Chicago” and its host Corey McPherrin aired, just before returning to a live McPherrin who was co-anchoring tonight’s newscast. It’s also fitting that Fox 32 would air the promo considering he soon won’t even be on “Good Day Chicago.”

If anyone’s face should be changing colors, it should be Fox 32 General Manager Dennis Welsh and News Director Tom Doerr. Their faces ought to be red with embarrassment.

Granted, I’m not a regular viewer of Fox 32 News, so the chance does exist that I have it all wrong. Tonight’s shenanigans could very well just be “business as usual.”

Local media on Lemont Citgo refinery fire

While I do like Mike Parker and appreciate his long-time standing as a Chicago journalist, last night was not one of his better nights on camera. The WBBM-TV/CBS 2 reporter was live in Lemont to report on the Citgo refinery fire for the station’s 10 p.m. newscast.

Asides from the blatant stammering and stuttering, Parker didn’t acknowledge some of the questions that an active viewer might be asking — are there any injuries or casualties, how close is the fire to being extinguished, are there any interruptions to traffic or road closures, are any nearby homes or businesses in danger?

Near the end of his report, Parker warned that anyone (assuming nearby residents?) with asthma or breathing problems should close their windows and… lock their doors.

Just an observation… I actually caught wind of the story via a blurb on the WGN-TV Ch. 9 News Facebook page just before 10 p.m. While the story on the WGN website was extremely vague with virtually no details asides from “there’s a fire,” the Lemont Patch story, for as short as it may have been, at least addressed some of the obvious questions a reader might be looking for.

CBS 2 Chicago newscast rolls out new graphics

CBS 2 News Graphic

CBS 2 News graphic — screenshot courtesy of NewscastStudio.com.

WBBM-TV/CBS 2 rolled-out new graphics during this morning’s newscast. Snapshots of the new graphics, which will be adapted by all CBS owned-and-operated stations, were leaked to NewscastStudio.com last month (showing demo screenshots for WCBS-TV, the CBS O&O in New York). KTVT-TV, the CBS O&O in Dallas, unveiled the same graphics package last week.

The new graphics are boxier and bolder. The added boxy and bold look will probably standout better for those viewing CBS 2 newscast videos on mobile devices.

The graphics used on CBS 2 so far this morning are nearly identical to the screenshots shown on NewscastStudio.com. One minor difference is the CBS 2 logo in the bottom-right corner — while the channel 2 graphic in the screenshots are gold, the channel 2 graphic that WBBM adapted is white, matching the color of the iconic eyeball.

Beneath the CBS 2 logo is a rotation of the station’s Twitter handle, Facebook handle and the URL to their website, CBSChicago.com. The “HD” stamp that was previously to the right of the logo is gone (thank goodness — bragging about broadcasting in HD in 2013, in my opinion, was the equivalent of a station still bragging about broadcasting in full color in 1997).

The theme music has also been modified, sounding slightly more amplified.

The new graphics are nice, clean, simple and modern. Most people at home probably won’t even notice the change, and that is ok. As long as they properly convey the information without being distracting, that is what is most important.

MSNBC to debut new website (someday…)

For however many years now, I’ve always lumped MSNBC and NBC News as one entity. Earlier this year, amidst continued dwindling numbers for MSNBC, NBC News President Phil Griffin said that MSNBC is not a news network. Rather than being a news channel that covers extensive breaking news, as has always been the case previously, they now wanted to be deemed as a (progressive) political channel. Comparing them to CNN or Fox News Channel would be like comparing apples to oranges.

Somewhat of a weak argument since MSNBC continued to cover breaking news this summer when warranted (i.e. the Oklahoma tornado outbreak earlier this spring being a prime example).

One of the attempts at fixing the brand confusion was to separate MSNBC.com from NBCNews.com. All news-news was under the MSNBC.com umbrella. No more, earlier this year NBCNews.com became a standalone website while MSNBC.com continues to be repackaged to soon be a standalone website for the cable channel as well as additional progressive content.

Attempt to go to MSNBC.com and you’ll either be redirected to NBCNews.com or you’ll see the image below — which is a prompt to remind you that a new MSNBC website is coming soon. This prompt has been in use practically all summer and now into autumn.

New MSNBC Website Preview

Does it really take that long to build a new website (even when done so correctly)?

The screen shot below is a more clear preview of what the new MSNBC will supposedly look like.

New MSNBC.com Preview

In my opinion, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC are all “news” networks which extensively cover politics. CNN attempts to be more neutral, while Fox is undeniably conservative while MSNBC is undeniably liberal. I don’t know what’s so hard to understand about that.

UPDATE at 10 a.m. —  This morning Politico’s Dylan Byers tweeted a link to a preview of the new MSNBC website.


Observation on the ‘Fox Box’ score bug

While watching the MLB All-Star game last night on Fox, I was reminded of something that I had not thought of since the NFC Championship Game on Fox. As minute as it is, I wonder why Fox Sports removed team logos from the “Fox Box” score bug (graphic) and replaced them with the team’s city or state abbreviation. The change was made at the start of last year’s NFL season and they also did the same for this year’s MLB broadcasts (click on each individual image to view larger size).

The change is only one tiny detail and it makes no impact on how viewers watch the game. I simply think the design of the graphic was better polished and cooler looking when it showed the team’s logos.

With the NFL season not far around the corner and the Aug. 17 launch of the Fox Sports 1 Network, it wouldn’t surprise me if Fox unveils a new set of graphics for their sports broadcasts. In the past, Fox has updated their sports graphic package, usually at the start of football, after three or four years. The current package has been in use on various Fox Sports broadcasts (i.e. the Fox Network, FX, and each individual Fox Sports regional channel) for at least three years, if not four.