Logo for the DFR Audible post categoryRemembrance Of Posts Past

Since we’re here in the doldrums of February, and there’s really nothing of particular importance going on, now would be a good time to revisit certain past topics of discussion for expansion, edification, or clarification.

Let’s start by expounding a bit more on one recent post topic, NHL Network’s On The Fly.

Still Worth Swatting

A recent feature in this space dissected On The Fly over the ways that the show fails compared with its predecessor/model, MLB Network’s Quick Pitch. The problems with OTF range from structural problems all the way to borderline sexism.

I noted previously that the show–thanks to the more inconsistent nature of hockey’s scheduling vs. baseball’s–sometimes lacks enough games to put together an hour’s worth of highlight packages, and suggested that the ideal solution would be to just shorten the program to half an hour and repeat more frequently. That idea seems to have occurred to someone at the network, too; several recent episodes of the show have in fact run half an hour. So that’s one problem solved.

Unfortunately, the show’s main problem–the occasional use of an extra analyst to “explain” the highlights–still pops up way too often. Not only does the setup of having some Random Hockey Guy standing there pontificating to hostess Jamie Hersch or Kelly Nash smack of sexism (as noted in the previous post), but there’s actually a more fundamental problem with the setup: it slows down what should be a fast-paced review show.

There’s a reason OTF‘s model is named QUICK Pitch; as a dedicated highlight show, QP runs through the day’s highlights comprehensively and rapidly. Conversely, OTF‘s format of showing a game’s highlights and then going into “discussion-mode” totally disrupts the rhythm of the program. Highlight packages by their nature are short, condensed, rapidly-cut summaries of the game in question; a talky “breakdown” of the same game is, of necessity, a much slower proceeding. The stop-and-start nature of a program so designed just doesn’t work as well as a show that is either all highlights–and thus rapid-fire without any slowdowns–or discussion-focused, thus allowing the presenters and viewers to go over a game, a season, a sport in depth. Either of those two options is fine on its own merits, depending upon what you’re trying to achieve; but a hybrid of those formats simply doesn’t work.

One would hope that On The Fly‘s producers would eventually come to that realization. Ditch the discussion and let those of us who just want the highlights to see the highlights. There are more than enough discussion shows scattered across the network’s schedule that viewers who crave that sort of thing can get it elsewhere.

Blackhawks Black Eye

One of the DFR’s “favorite” bugaboos is the intrusion of advertising into the game broadcasts beyond the commercial breaks. The topic as regards hockey has been discussed at some length in posts here, here, and most recently here.

That last post cited above was actually not a complaint but a bit of praise for the San Jose Sharks who, after going in whole hog on the “ads on the glass” thing previously, have made the positive change of getting rid of that nonsense on this season’s game broadcasts (at least for now). It’s a noticeable difference and makes watching the games–without those distractions–a much better experience.

What’s also noticable is the fact that the same can not be said for other teams–in particular, the three-time Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Catching a Blackhawks game on NHL Network is something akin to blunt-force trauma to the eyeballs, given the prevalence of superimposed advertising graphics on the glass–not just behind the goaltender, but on the glass along the sides of the rink, too.

What makes Chicago’s use of these ads so egregious–and significant–is the fact that it puts the lie to the claim that these sorts of revenue-generating schemes are necessary for the success of the team. Yes, the Blackhawks have won three Cups in recent seasons–but they have also been notorious for not spending money to keep those team together. Chicago has had a quick trigger on dumping salaries throughout their successful run, going all the way back to getting rid of Dustin Byfuglien and Antti Niemi in the aftermath of the first championship in 2010. Those and other cogs in the Blackhawks’ machine have come and gone over the years, without staying around long enough to get expensive.

This is not to say the team was wrong to get rid of those or other players; their success shows they made the right call in each case. But remember this example the next time someone spits out the same old tired lie that teams need to do everything possible to generate more revenue in order to be successful, winners, or champions. The Blackhawks have proved otherwise–and they proved that their operating principle is less about the fans’ experience and mostly about greed.

Hitting Below The Line

Finally, a correction, of sorts: a previous post in this space chastised FOX Sports for not having any sort of indicator on their “ticker” graphic to show which team has the ball.

It turns out, that’s not actually true. There’s a yellow line that appears beneath the name of the team with the ball during the game; it’s standard on both college and pro football broadcasts. (This is mostly about football scores, but the yellow indicator also applies to reporting finals and which team won the game.)

So I was wrong…sort of. Why did I complain that there was no indicator? Because I couldn’t see it; as it happens, on my TV, thanks to the screen’s “overscan” parameters, the yellow indicator falls just outside the visible portion of the screen. It’s a problem that occurs with older TVs; most screens from the last few years are probably immune to the problem (though I haven’t checked every TV on the market, of course).

I hedge on apologizing in full,because the practical reality of this situation is that this issue illustrates the half-assed way that FOX goes about the business of broadcasting sports. From having awful announcers to stupid coverage ideas (remember the glowing puck on the network’s once-upon-a-time NHL coverage?) to lazy direction and camera work, FOX still does the worst job of covering games among the major networks. The glitch with their score ticker is no exception.

For comparison, take a look at ESPN’s Bottom Line ticker. Anyone can scan these pages and recognize that I’m no fan of “The Worldwide Leader,” but I can at least acknowledge when someone does something right. If you look at the Bottom Line, you’ll notice that the graphic allows for a generous margin along the bottom of the screen. Why? Because someone at ESPN possesses the basic broadcasting competence to know that there is such a thing as overscan; you have to leave a safety margin away from the screen edge in order to ensure that your picture/graphic/whatever will not be chopped off. The dopes at FOX, apparently, are not nearly so professional. (MLB Network could stand to learn this lesson, too.)

It may seem misplaced to complain about the finer points of something we get for free, but that’s the point–we don’t get this stuff for free. We, the viewers, pay for all of this, either through cable bills, or for our internet service (if we stream the programs), or even through our phone bills if we watch via our mobile devices. The least these networks can do is get the details right if we’re going to spend our time and money giving them a reason to exist.

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