SBD/Issue 245/Sports Media

Fox Using Wider Angle HD Shot For NFL Coverage This Season

HD Viewers Will Be Able To See More
Of The Field, Especially Horizontally

Fox this season is aiming to present all its NFL telecasts "in the 16-by-9 screen aspect ratio for high definition format, instead of the 4-by-3 ratio for standard definition format, which has been the norm," according to Bob Wolfley of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Viewers with HD "will be able to see more of the field, especially horizontally, hence getting a better look at a developing play." Viewers without HD "will get the wide look, but in compressed letterbox form -- black strips along the top and bottom of the screens." Fox President Eric Shanks noted the majority of the net's ratings, "60-plus percent, will come from HD viewership." Shanks: "It's time to actually ... start producing for the majority, which has invested in HDTV. Up until now, we have still been producing for old television sets. People with HD haven't gotten the full effect of us producing in a full 16-by-9. So we decided to make the switch." Shanks noted that some cable companies "on the standard def side don't have their equipment set correctly to provide the wide format in letterbox." In those cases, viewers will get a "chopped frame where, for example, all of the score box cannot be seen" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/3).

WORKING ON A GAME PLAN: Fox has produced three preseason NFL games in 16-by-9 and is working on a strategy with the league to roll it out for the regular season. Shanks told THE DAILY: "We're working with the NFL between now and week one on how we're going to proceed with 16-by-9 as soon as we get all the data back from viewers and data back from the league." Fox has produced MLB games in 16-by-9 for the past two months, during which time the broadcaster has been able to figure out which cable operators are not doing the letterbox correctly. Shanks said, "By us doing baseball for the last six or seven weeks, then these preseason games, with the viewer feedback we really narrowed in on the cable systems that aren't doing letterbox correctly on the standard def side. ... If the cable systems would do the letterbox correctly, nobody would have an issue at all" (John Ourand, THE DAILY).

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