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.

Worth a read: Details surrounding Gregory/MTP split, influence of Comcast at NBC News

David Gregory

Luke Mullins of the Washingtonian wrote a long-form narrative detailing the inside turmoil that surrounded David Gregory and the circumstances leading up to his dismissal as “Meet the Press” moderator.

While the piece did little detail anything earth shattering new surrounding Gregory’s ousting, it was very interesting to read up on all of the tiny details in their proper context.

What the story does dive into is how Comcast, the parent company of NBC, is more involved in NBC’s division and how that may potentially impact the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner.

My “Meet the Press” viewing naturally increased after new moderator Chuck Todd took the helm. In recent weeks however, my urgency to watch and my initial exciting about Todd cooled off. What started it for me was the high urgency that Todd and the rest of the media gave to the Ebola scare. The Ebola story quickly turned into sensationalism and I wasn’t going to waste my time with that. Asides from a few cosmetic changes to the set and a change of guests, “Meet” quickly went back to being just another weekend show that rehashes the same over-cycled news from the week.

Nevertheless, news itself about the “Meet the Press” institution continues to fascinate me, though I think anyone who considers his or herself a news junkie or even has some interest in journalism will find Mullins’s piece worth reading.

The best thing I’ve read today: The media’s fear virus

St. Louis radio personality Paul Harris regularly shares via his blog and Twitter specific items that he considers to be important or fascinating reads. He dubs them “the best thing I’ve read today.”

Today’s blog by Paul Harris will without a doubt be the best thing I’ll read today. Paul takes the news media to task for their coverage of the Ebola virus, as if it has already become a plague in the United States (it hasn’t). Harris specifically goes after “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, in response to one of Todd’s tweets.

Yes, Chuck, that’s because you and your colleagues across the media spectrum keep playing it up like there’s an Ebola plague in the US when there isn’t! While thousands of Africans have died and will continue to die from the disease (a story that you’ve been abandoned because the victims are on another continent), Ebola has killed exactly one person here, out of a population of some 320 million. Meanwhile, thirty thousand more Americans will be killed by guns this year than by Ebola, not to mention cigarette smoking, unsafe sex, and salmonella — but where’s that wall-to-wall coverage?

Read Paul’s entire post:  “The Fear Virus Strikes Again”

Chuck Todd should be seated at the head of table: And other random “Meet the Press” musings

Meet the Press Set

New “Meet the Press Set” – Photo courtesy,

Six weeks and five episodes into Chuck Todd’s run as moderator of “Meet the Press,” now seems like a good time to dish out some pent-up thoughts pertaining to NBC’s venerable television franchise.

I’ve been watching “Meet the Press” semi-regularly since 2007. I regret that I had not begun watching it sooner, having missed out on much of Tim Russert’s run as moderator.

I’ve agreed with the general sentiment towards David Gregory and that the show had appeared to operate off a paint  by numbers formula. The public’s reaction to the news in late August that NBC’s Chuck Todd would take over as the show’s moderator was a mixed bag, and for a variety of reasons.

While it would be hard to find anyone from within the news media who doubt that Todd is as affluent in politics as it comes, some people hesitate that he just doesn’t have the demeanor or looks to hold down such a prominent television hosting role. The more general sentiment is that the Sunday morning talk show routine has run its course and that Todd represents more of the status quo.

The digital age and 24/7 news media has certainly lessened the overall impact of the Sunday morning talk shows.  While the Sunday talk shows continue to skew towards an older audience, shows like the “Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” and “Last Week Tonight,” deliver fresh and exciting content on a subject that often leaves people angry and frustrated — and they skew younger.

Prior to the anointing of Todd as the new “Meet the Press” moderator, there were suggestions that NBC News was leaning towards, or at the very least exploring, radically different means to help differentiate the show from its Sunday morning competitors.

Here’s how Politico’s Dylan Byers narrated such possibilities in his Aug. 15 report:

In fact, even Todd’s bosses needed to be persuaded. Deborah Turness, the president of NBC News, was lukewarm on him, sources at the network said. Disappointed by the program’s poor ratings under host David Gregory, she had entertained all manner of revisions: Moving the show to New York and handing it over to a more affable, nonpolitical personality like Savannah Guthrie, the co-host of the “Today” show; changing the show’s name; perhaps even canceling it and starting over. That Turness was considering such diverse and radical options right up until the end — while Gregory was left to twist in the wind, enduring an onslaught of criticism and negative press — shows just how uncertain she was about the appropriate solution.

Just last week, word came out that NBC News offered the moderator chair to the “Daily Show’s” John Stewart(!).

Also, the fact that Deborah Turness might even for a second consider cancelling the show is just batshit crazy.

I just can’t shake the feeling that giving the job to Todd was a reluctant move by NBC. I hope I’m wrong, because even though the Sunday morning talk show formula may be incapable of living up to the relevance in had prior to the digital age and 24/7 news, I still find it to be an important cog in the overall political news media. Todd alone is a vast improvement over Gregory, and I like how has so far come across on the show.

Hopefully, the recently upgraded set is a vote of confidence in Todd by the NBC News brass. However, I question the necessity of a new set. The previous “Meet the Press” set was introduced in 2010 and was yet to come across as out of date. One thing I don’t like since Todd took over is the anchor desk he shares with his roundtable. Though it’s only a small caveat, I believe being moderator of “Meet the Press” is an esteemed honor, enough so that the host should rightfully be seated at the “head” of the desk, if you will, apart from the rest. Simply sitting in the middle doesn’t separate him enough, in my opinion. Todd either feels more comfortable being seated in the middle with the roundtable guests or NBC made that cosmetic decision for him.

For now, I’ll continue to enjoy “Meet the Press” for what it’s worth. A simple re-hash of the week’s most important news and political stories along with some debate that I may or may not enjoy, pending the guests. While I happen to like Todd’s attempt at a slightly more casual and viewer friendly program, I don’t know if that will be enough to lure people away from ABC’s “This Week” or CBS’s “Face the Nation.” If he can’t, I reckon his leash will be shorter than Gregory’s (six years).

Loss of ‘America Weekend’ leaves weekend talk radio broke and brokered

America Weekend Radio - Envision Radio Networks

The smut and garbage that has decimated weekend programming on radio stations throughout the country has claimed another life. “America Weekend,” a block of live, compelling and original talk radio programming has ceased further production following this past weekend’s shows. Syndicated by the Envision Radio Networks, the six hour block of programming each Saturday and Sunday aimed to minimize the amount of brokered real estate, financial, travel and health programming that airs on various news/talk stations nationwide.

Kipper McGee, Veteran Radio Programmer

Kipper McGee, Radio Programmer

Launched in early 2013, I was on-board as a fan from the start after it was announced that veteran broadcaster Paul Harris signed on to host the Saturday and Sunday 8 to 11 a.m. block. The remaining blocks were hosted by either Turi Ryder or Rob Carson (Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

The shows were modular, meaning stations could carry as much of it as they wanted, in and around live sports or other programming. The concept was orchestrated by veteran radio programmer Kipper McGee. Unfortunately, the sad reality after a year and a half resulted in not enough stations willing to part ways with the easy money that brokered programming provides.

“America Weekend” host Paul Harris provided further explanation on his blog:

But the one thing Kipper and I couldn’t do was change the paradigm of weekend talk radio around the country. While we grew from our original two affiliates to about 30 from Alaska to Mississippi, we kept running into a brick wall with stations that only cared about putting on programming that gave them a check that cleared, even if it hurt their ratings. I even had a top executive from one of the major radio groups tell me that, although he loved the product we were putting on the air, he’d never be able to convince his sales managers to abandon the way they’ve been doing weekends for the last decade.

For as much as I wanted the concept to work, I admit I lost some optimism not far into its beginning. It was very hard to find affiliates that carried the show, thus making it hard to listen to live. Any of the available streams that I could find via the TuneIn app were mostly small market stations — any major market station that was willing to come on-board surely would have been publicized. I usually downloaded the “America Weekend” website. Not a viable way for them to make money, I’m sure.

What bums me about the loss of “America Weekend” is the six hours of Paul Harris each weekend. Paul has stated on his website that he will now return to semi-retirement, while continuing to host his local Friday show on KTRS-AM 550 in St. Louis, in addition to any other fill-in work from time to time.

Paul Harris, Veteran Radio Host

Paul Harris, Radio Host

While I don’t consider myself the authority on news/talk radio, it is my opinion that Paul is the best radio talk show host in America. I quickly became a fan of his in July 2008 after hearing him fill in for “Don and Roma” on WLS-AM 890 in Chicago. On top of that, I will always remain indebted to him since it was Paul who planted the seed for me to adapt an active mindset open to skepticism and critical thinking. Between reading his blog regularly (as well as his vast archive) and listening to countless shows where he filled on stations across the country, he has, without over-exaggerating, literally changed my life. I highly regret not having been aware of him back when he was broadcasting five days a week.

I should note that while Paul’s blog and previous radio shows did inspire me (aka correct previous assumptions and beliefs) politically, “America Weekend” was far from being a typical political show. It was the exact opposite. It was more of a news and lifestyle talk show, occupied by an assortment of guests to discuss a variety of topics. Paul had authors, actors, artists and journalists, and you always knew you were going to walk away having learned something useful or interesting, whether the discussion related to the importance of science education, climate change, the new iPad or green technology.

I’m sorry to see “America Weekend” belly up as a result of reluctant radio managers refusing to sacrifice easy money in exchange for providing their listeners with live and compelling content. A radio host friend of mine in Chicago once told me of a conversion he had with a programmer who described the easy money that comes from such brokered programming as being like “crack cocaine.”

In the news/talk radio industry, brokered programming has become an addiction. Unfortunately, creativity was not enough to either stop the abuse or prevent a relapse.

Follow-up Content:

ABC taps David Muir to succeed Diane Sawyer as ‘World News’ anchor

David Muir, ABC World News

Network broadcasting evening news isn’t what it used to be. While not exactly breaking news, such an observation was more apparent this week after ABC News announced that Diane Sawyer will be stepping down as host of “World News,” and will be succeeded by current weekend “World News” host, David Muir, beginning Sept. 2.

I’m pretty sure Megyn Kelly’s move to primetime on the Fox News Channel, or the Piers Morgan primetime exit at CNN got more reaction then the Sawyer/Muir news.

I haven’t been a fan of Sawyer’s overall presentation since succeeding Charles Gibson as “World News” host — most notably because the awkward inflections that turn up so often in her voice. Muir, has the look of a star anchor man and has done a good job on the weekend ‘World News.’ While I’m not 100% confident a 40 year old Muir would have been ABC’s first choice for the job full-time, say back in 1988 or 2005, he should be a fine choice for the modern incarnation of the network evening newscast.

At first, I suspected that ABC News veteran George Stephanopoulos would not have been all too happy about not getting the “World News” gig — it has been believed for years that he had his eyes on that job. Considering how far the network evening newscast has fallen in prominence, however, being named the network’s overall “lead news anchor” may be enough to make him happy. As lead news anchor, Stephanopoulos will be ABC News’ go to for all breaking news and special events, including election nights — a role that traditionally was occupied by the host of “World News.”

Stephanopoulos, who signed a long-term extension with ABC News in April, will continue to host “Good Morning America” and “This Week.” Sawyer, meanwhile, will become a full-time investigative reporter and appear for special interviews.

On the run: Kenny Albert staying busy

Kenny AlbertSports broadcaster Kenny Albert has had one heck of a busy month. As the radio play-by-play voice of the New York Rangers, he called all six games of the Rangers/Canadiens Eastern Conference Finals, while also calling all seven games of the Blackhawks/Kings Western Conference Finals for NBC Sports.

For the better part of two weeks, Albert was traveling back and forth between New York, Chicago, Montreal and Los Angeles.

While Albert’s schedule obviously became less hectic during the Rangers/Kings Stanley Cup Finals, it doesn’t mean he’s entirely off the hook.

Less than 24 hours after the Rangers lost the series to the Kings after five games on Friday night, Albert flew from Los Angeles to St. Louis to call last night’s Nationals/Cardinals game on Fox.

While I’m sure Albert wishes the Rangers/Kings series would have gone the other way, he should be due for some kind of a break now that the Rangers season is over.
Some added bits and bytes… Below are a few miscellaneous observations while watching last night’s Nationals/Cardinals game during Fox’s “Baseball Night in America” broadcast.

Baseball Night in America– I’ve hated that Fox has been using their NFL theme music package for all other sports broadcasts (something they started doing during the 2010 MLB post-season). I was happy when I heard their classic MLB music during last night’s “Baseball Night in America” broadcast. They have continued to use their MLB music package on Fox Sports 1 MLB broadcasts as well as for MLB games on their respective Fox Sports regional channels. It’s a great sounding package and deserves use on the main Fox network. I’m glad it’s back, though they were still using the NFL music at the open of last night’s “Baseball Night in America” pregame studio show. I get that use of the NFL theme package seemingly adds prominence to the broadcast, but it just doesn’t work. It feels dirty.

– By the way, I hate the “Baseball Night in America” name. I get that Fox wants to market their Saturday primetime broadcasts as something special, but the entire “fill in the blank Night in America” name has been overdone. It started in Canada with “Hockey Night in America,” which NBC borrowed for their “Football Night in America” primetime studio show several years back. NBC borrowed the idea again for their own “Hockey Day in America” specials. And now, Fox has borrowed it for their primetime baseball broadcasts. It’s overdone.

– Thumbs up to new MLB on Fox game analyst Tom Verducci, who worked last night’s Nationals/Cardinals game with Kenny Albert. Verducci was a joy to listen to, especially when explaining, in-depth, the throwing mechanics of Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg and Cardinals starter Shelby Miller. I’ve long enjoyed Verducci on MLB Network’s “MLB Tonight” broadcasts, so I’m not shocked that he has adapted so nicely in the broadcast booth.

Todd Zwillich discusses dynamics of being a political beat writer in Washington, relationships and dirty laundry

Todd ZwillichTodd Zwillich, Washington correspondent for The Takeaway from Public Radio International, was on Julie Mason’s “Press Pool” show this afternoon on the SiriusXM POTUS channel.

Zwillich discussed the dynamics of a political beat reporter in Washington and how important relationships with politicians, their staffers and even colleagues in the press are. In order to build a collective list of valuable sources, political beat reporters have to essentially become part of the “institution,” even when a reporter’s primary interest is supposed to be the general public. Zwillich mentions how some reporters take an alternative, which is to become an adversarial reporter looking for scandals and dirty laundry. Going that route, however, means you burn your chance at ever obtaining first-hand sources. Such reporters must instead rely on public records and second or third hand sources.

Without revealing anything, Zwillich discussed what its like to know the dirty laundry (illegal activities, who’s sleeping with who) of so many prominent people within the beltway and weighing the options of when such information is worth bringing to the public’s attention.

It was a fascinating discussion, that took place during the final 15 or 20 minutes of the 3 p.m. CT hour. I recommend that anyone who has Sirius XM and can listen to the “Press Pool” replay, either tonight on the POTUS channel or via on-demand do so.

Colbert to CBS ‘Late Show’ captivates conservative paranoia

Stephen Colbert

When I heard Rush Limbaugh’s response to last week’s news that CBS chose Stephen Colbert to succeed David Letterman as host as the “Late Show,” I was thinking how glad I am not to be a damn conservative.

I can’t imagine how happy a conservative minded person can possibly be — those who are likely to subscribe to the mindset of a Limbaugh or a Bill O’Reilly — since they are constantly paranoid about everything. For the sheep who nod their heads while Limbaugh speaks, they sincerely believe that CBS has declared war on the traditional late night television viewer who just wants pure wholesome comedy after watching the late local news.

Below is a portion of Limbaugh’s remarks, last Thurday, on his syndicated radio program:

What this hire means is a redefinition of what is funny and a redefinition of what is comedy, and they’re blowing up the 11:30 format under the guise that the world’s changing and people don’t want the kind of comedy that Carson gave us, or even Letterman. They don’t want that anymore. It’s media planting a flag here…It’s a declaration. There’s no unity in this hire.

You know Limbaugh is stretching when he is willing to include Letterman in the group of traditional late night comedians — Letterman’s “Late Show” has adapted more of a liberal vibe in recent years, with his continued jabs at President George W. Bush becoming a regular, if not signature, bit. While Letterman hasn’t made his name off political satire, his show has enough of a liberal vibe that would likely discourage hardcore conservatives from watching. Limbaugh has to absolutely hate Letterman.

Even if CBS’ intent was to declare a bold political statement, who cares!? We’re not in the 1970’s anymore where you only have three of four television channels to chose from. If conservatives are unwilling to watch Colbert’s “Late Show,” they have the option to watch Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Comedy Central or classics from their VHS collection.

In all seriousness though, the idea that CBS giving the ‘Late Show’ to Colbert is supposed to be a political statement is as absurd as it gets. Even though I am not familiar with Colbert outside his current blowhard conservative character, he has been recognized by and large as an all-round gifted comedian who is poised to accept the challenge of modernizing his act for a more mainstream audience. Colbert has a younger following and he is active on social media — two parameters that CBS hopes allows their late night show to be more competitive against Fallon’s “Tonight Show.”

CBS doesn’t care about Colbert’s political ideology! CBS just wants to make more money and Colbert has the potential to make that happen!

On a semi-related note, last week, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly lamented how Colbert’s liberal influence potentially damages the country. O’Reilly spoke more about Colbert yesterday while appearing on ABC’s “The View.” In response to the absurdity of all this, my buddy Terence from T Dog Media tweeted the following…

Quite possibly the best tweet ever.