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).
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.
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).
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).
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…