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Fox HD Improves! It Was In the Cards!
By Swanni

Washington, D.C. (October 20, 2011) -- There was enormous tension at St. Louis' Busch Stadium last night and it wasn't just felt by the players taking the field for game one of the World Series.

Fox, which has the exclusive rights to broadcast the Fall Classic, was feeling it as well. TV analysts have predicted that the lackluster match-up between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals will result in dismal ratings. So network executives yesterday were under the gun -- and, perhaps, under a prayer pew at some point -- to do something to drive interest in the games.

And then there was another issue of concern, one that doesn't get as much media attention, but is buzzed about on Internet message boards, at company water coolers and bar rails across the nation. And that issue is whether Fox's HD picture would deliver the 'Wow Factor' you expect from a high-def sportscast. When baseball fans tuned in to game one, would they be amazed at how clear and colorful the picture is or would they say to their buddy, "Hey, is the game in HD tonight? The picture kinda' sucks."

The issue is a serious one because, as reported here last week, Fox's HD sportscasts often produce a muddy, grainy picture that barely qualifies as HD. For reasons not entirely clear, the network seems to have trouble matching the great HD sports video provided by such rivals as CBS, NBC and TBS.

And for a World Series match-up that needs every advantage it can get to produce decent ratings, Fox's HD picture quality suddenly becomes more important. Casual baseball fans might be less willing to tune in for game two, and beyond, if they were not impressed with the picture in game one.

I noted last week that Fox's HD coverage of the first two games of the ALCS between the Rangers and Tigers was terrible, a grainy mess, and in sharp contrast to TBS' superb broadcast of the Brewers/Cards NLCS. However, I must say that Fox's picture improved sharply when the ALCS moved to Detroit; it wasn't TBS-good, but I would have graded it a B-.

So, how did Fox do last night for game one of the Series?

How did the game look to you?

In my view, better. Better than its coverage in game one and two of the ALCS -- and about the same as its coverage in the Detroit-based games of that series. The picture was often vivid and colorful with just a touch of grain here and there. The close-ups of the players and the managers in the dugouts displayed more detail than you sometimes see in a Fox sports broadcast. And the first inning, slow-motion replay of Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter sliding into first base to tag the base after receiving an errant throw from Albert Pujols was beautiful to behold.

Clearly, Fox was bringing out all the guns to produce the best broadcast it could. I'm not saying that the disgruntled opinions expressed here and elsewhere during the ALCS motivated Fox execs to up their game, but it couldn't have hurt. Everyone needs a kick in the butt once and awhile, right?

Note: I received several e-mails from readers across the country last night who generally said the same thing; while I watched the game on DIRECTV in the Washington, D.C. area, they said the Fox broadcast looked slightly above average when viewed from several different providers in several different cities.

And I would concur. I would give the overall picture quality a C+ or B-. It wasn't a TBS 'A' but it was certainly an improvement.

What do you think? Offer your comments below!

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