Baseball: Fox Misses The Big
Washington, D.C. (October 10,
2011) -- The networks have been
airing sporting events in High-Definition TV now for more than a
decade. So, why does nearly every Fox Sports HD broadcast seem
like it's still being produced by rank amateurs?
I ask that question again after viewing Saturday night's
broadcast of the Tigers-Rangers American League Championship
Series and Sunday's NFL game between the Eagles and Bills. I say
"again" because I have written frequently in the past about Fox
Sports' grainy HD picture and lackluster attention to image
Unlike most of its competitors, such as CBS, NBC and TBS, Fox
Sports can't deliver that great, eye-popping high-def picture
we've all come to expect.
Vote in our poll
Take the Saturday night baseball game, for example, The picture
was not horrible, unlike last year's Fox broadcast of the World
Series which looked more like standard-definition than
But the Fox picture on Saturday night too often exhibited
significant grain, which creates the effect of small particles
on screen. This reduces image clarity and detail and it tends to
leave the colors a bit washed out. It's as if the Fox producers
ran the video through a time machine to make the program look
like a faded copy of a 1960s movie.
The centerfield camera,
which focuses on the pitcher delivering the ball to the hitter,
displayed more grain than a Kansas wheat field.
Now it's important to note that not all of the Fox's cameras produced this annoying effect.
The sideline close-ups of Tiger manager Jim Leyland were
extremely vivid and sharp. (Of course, one could argue that even
high-def enthusiasts might prefer a less detailed shot of the
weather-beaten face of Mr. Leyland.) And, on occasion, close-ups
of hitters at bat also were much clearer and life-like. They
gave hope that Fox actually can do high-def right when it wants
But the majority of the broadcast featured a dull, often muddy
picture that made this viewer sometimes wonder why he was
watching in HD in the first place. (And the sideline camera that
kept going in and out of focus when shooting close-ups of Tiger
pitcher Justin Verlander didn't help, either.)
In contrast, once again, TBS did a marvelous job yesterday with
its broadcast of the opening game of the Milwaukee Brewers-St.
Louis Cardinals NLCS. The pictures were vivid and life-like from
the first inning to the last. As TBS also demonstrated in the
first playoff round, broadcasting baseball in high-def can be
done right. It's not easy, but it's not as difficult as Fox
makes it seem.
picture misses the point of high-def.
And this takes me back to Fox. The network certainly has the
resources to do a better job with sports. (Fox's primetime
dramas are beautiful in high-def, arguably the best use of HD
among the networks.) But it seems like FoxSports -- regardless
of whether it's baseball, football or even NASCAR -- just doesn't
devote the attention to detail that TBS, NBC and CBS does. (I
leave out ABC and Disney because their HD broadcasts of sports
are inconsistent at best.)
Some HD fans might say Fox is at a disadvantage because it
decided long ago to broadcast sports in 720p rather than 1080i;
many feel that 1080i produces a sharper, more life-like picture
than 720p. I tend to agree with that assessment, but I suspect
the problem with Fox is larger than that. At times, Fox Sports'
HD picture is acceptable, albeit not spectacular. But most of
the time, it falls far short of its competitors.
The real tragedy for HD fans is that because Fox has enormous
resources, it can buy the rights to such major events as NFL
Football, the World Series, the Super Bowl, etc. And we HD fans
are forced to watch our best sporting events in sub-par HD.
So, what do you think? How would you rate Fox's HD broadcast of
the MLB Playoffs? Vote below in our poll. (And click
poll to see how TBS did
in our reader poll.)
Phillip Swann is president and publisher
of TVPredictions.com. He has been quoted in dozens of publications
and broadcast outlets, including CNN, Fox News, Inside Edition, The
New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The
Financial Times, The Associated Press and The Hollywood Reporter. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or at 703-505-3064.