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Football broadcasts highlight synergy

Sean Sweany | Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Now that football season has officially begun in both the college and professional realms, it is the time of year where televisions should either be tuned in to programs such as “Lost” or else some form of football. As I watched various games over the weekend including the Ohio State-Texas contest and the Bears’ thrashing of the Green Bay Packers, several questions about sports television broadcasting came into my head.

During the stellar game between the Buckeyes and Longhorns, announcers made it very clear that viewers were watching “ESPN on ABC.” This makes it seem like the moniker of cable network ESPN has become so popular that it now overshadows that of a broadcast channel which is technically its parent.

Bear in mind that ABC invented the “Wide World of Sports” program, was a pioneer in the sports broadcast industry and has brought us legendary sports anchors like Brent Musberger and Keith Jackson. In spite of these achievements, the ESPN brand has now permanently taken over ABC Sports and does not appear to want to relinquish its hold any time soon.

This led me to wonder what might come next. With such an emphasis on corporate synergy and cross promotion, we could soon see program titles such as “Major League Baseball, brought to you by The Best Damn Sports Show Period on FOX.” Or perhaps “Comcast Sports Net on NBC’s presentation of NASCAR” will be coming soon to a television near you.

How far could cross promotion like this go without completely inundating us with corporate media conglomerates? Hopefully, ESPN on ABC will be as far as television executives spread the cross pollination of sports television.

Another recurring problem with sports television is the annual re-tooling of logos, stats and information bars and animations. With the exception of ESPN, each new sports season brings a new version of information bars on every network that try to flood your television with more stats, sound effects and advertisements, all while trying to be overly hip or cool. These increasingly complex graphics end up looking ridiculous and push aside the more vital information to emphasize the newest technological breakthroughs.

The tendency of the new graphics to somehow end up looking worse and worse each year causes viewers to spend more time getting used to reading them than watching the game itself. Meanwhile, somewhere a television executive is receiving a hefty bonus check for contributing his new graphics idea to the yearly pre-production meeting.

Instead of wasting time and money on such shenanigans, a novel idea would be to spend said money, which could potentially be a big sum, on ensuring that every sports broadcast is in high-definition. Any extra money could go toward hiring quality sports anchors and analysts instead of B-list sports stars who have no clue what they’re talking about.

While both of these disappointing problems are easily remedied and done away with, somehow this will not end up happening in either case. The sports broadcasting world is one of perpetual change, and network executives seemingly feel no need to be shackled by the structures of tradition or “doing what works.”

Each passing year will continue to bring ever more complicated graphics and more prolific instances of cross promotion in broadcasting. Now excuse me, I have to go try to understand the graphics on “ABC’s Monday Night Football on ESPN, brought to you by GMC Trucks.”

Contact Sean Sweany at ssweany@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.