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A director’s eye look at Marquee Network’s graphics and style

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So we’ve got a whole new Cubs TV channel. How does it look and feel to the viewer?

Marquee Network

Over the last few days we’ve looked at the Marquee Network’s somewhat glitchy launch, given a positive review of their first broadcast, and had an explanation of exactly how and where and why you can and can’t see the network in various parts of the country.

Today, I am going to take a detailed dive into some of the broadcast elements the network has used over its first few games. Some of these have changed since Saturday’s debut broadcast and I believe the network is using Spring Training games as kind of an on-air rehearsal for things they’ll do during the season. It’s a work in progress and I expect the Opening Day broadcast March 26 to look somewhat different than what you’re seeing now.

As most of you know, I worked for 30 years as a television director at ABC-7 in Chicago. My expertise is mostly in local TV news, but I think I’ve got a good eye for TV production, particularly graphics. Here’s my director’s eye look at what Marquee is putting on its air.

The image at the top of this post is the tail end of Marquee’s intro video, which is a good, solid 21st Century-style sports intro video. Then there’s this lead-in graphic which is excellent. Good colors, catches your attention, takes up enough of the screen to get its point across without being overly dominant:

Here’s one of the first graphics they ran during the broadcast, talking about the potential that Steven Souza Jr. could have a good comeback season in 2020:

Very high grades for this one. Easily identifies the player, the numbers are large and readable in a sans-serif font that doesn’t call attention to itself.

Here’s one I thought could have been a bit more colorful or larger:

What can I say, I’m kind of a weather geek. I’d like to see this graphic a bit larger, and the black-and-white put in the Cubs blue that seems to be the common thread tying all the graphics together.

This one, again, very readable and in good contrasting colors.

On this lineup graphic, I think the lettering is too small. There’s a lot of blank space here, and while these names are easy enough to read on a 50-inch screen in your house, not everyone’s watching that way. These names would be very hard to read on your phone. (If you’re reading this article on your phone, do you concur? Just how small are those letters on a phone?)

Here’s the standard player identifier (what I’d have called a “lower third” in the TV biz):

Some people are going to complain that there’s not enough information on that graphic. The thing is, you can’t really put much more than that on something that’s going to be on the screen for only a few seconds if you want to have it all understood. I suppose they could add on-base percentage, but then the other numbers are going to wind up being smaller or squished together. This one works for me.

On the other hand... this one doesn’t:

I have written on this site previously about scoreboxes. Granted that we watched baseball games for decades without them, but now that they are a standard feature of every MLB broadcast, I think it’s imperative for TV channels to get them right. While the colors and lettering here are fine, I don’t care for the box at the bottom. It takes a conscious look to see it. Your eye naturally goes to the top of the screen. That’s why this scorebox is so good:

Clean, easy to read, good contrast on the diamond with baserunners, and numbers for the outs. I’m not fond of having dots for outs. Numbers are easier to read. I’d prefer if Marquee changed the outs indicators to numbers.

I do like having the batter’s and pitcher’s name and the pitch count on the Marquee scorebox. I hope they will consider moving all of it to the top of the screen. Or they could take a hint from Fox-TV’s scorebox, one of the cleanest and easiest to read in all of sports. Yes, it’s on the bottom of the screen, but stands out enough to be easy to find:

If Marquee does decide to move its scorebox to the top of the screen, I have just one request: Please keep it in what TV people call “title safe” — meaning, low enough so the top of it doesn’t get cut off at home, unlike this old WGN scorebox:

Way too close to the top of the screen — many older home TVs (including mine!) cut off WGN’s scorebox for the last two years.

Marquee’s scorebox could stand some improvement. And I’m not alone in this analysis — Jon Greenberg of The Athletic concurs:

There are minor problems with the score bug, from its lower-middle placement to the lack of consistent velocity readings to the design itself.

(Note that it’s the spring training parks likely responsible for the “lack of consistent velocity readings” rather than it being Marquee’s fault.)

Here are a couple of in-game graphics that work well:

The graphic above is SO important, especially if Marquee is going to have as many in-game guests and special announcers as we’ve seen for the first few broadcasts. We don’t need to see talking heads. We have tuned in to watch baseball. A quick establishing shot of the guest is fine, then “voice of” works for the rest of their appearance. I want to see more of this when Len and JD are talking with guests.

Here’s another in-game graphic that gets an A grade from me:

Len Kasper, in particular, likes to get into more detailed statistical analysis than most announcers, and I like that. This graphic was used to illustrate that though some 2019 Cubs ranks in franchise history were good, the overall offense often didn’t work. This graphic is easy to read and tells the story.

I also liked this one, added for this broadcast (I didn’t see this used on Saturday):

Used just at the end of innings, it’s a good game summary. These can be seen on almost every MLB broadcast, local or national. Glad to see Marquee doing it in, again, an easy-to-read format with good contrasting letters and background.

Lastly, I want to talk a little bit about mic’ing up players [VIDEO].

I like this idea. It’s kind of cool. During the broadcast Len mentioned that he’d like to see a player with an earpiece so they could talk back and forth with him. This is a good idea — but only during spring training. It was done very well two years ago by ESPN during a Cubs/Red Sox spring game in Ft. Myers:

Mookie Betts saying, “I ain’t gettin’ this one, guys” was one of the funnier TV moments of the spring of 2018. But during the season having something like this could be really distracting to the player.

And that’s where I’ll leave this — that too much of all the bells and whistles they’ve been showing us on Marquee the first few days can be distracting to the viewer. Many of us have noted that ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball has turned into more of an entertainment show than a baseball game. Marquee’s producers and directors should take care that they are showing us the game, not adding extraneous things that distract from Cubs baseball.

But all in all, Marquee is doing a good job. I’ll be at the ballpark the next two days so I won’t see Marquee’s broadcasts Tuesday and Wednesday, but will be watching and keeping tabs on most of the away games on the channel this spring.

And, of course, continuing to hope that Marquee and Comcast sign an agreement before March 26 so I can watch the games at home when I get back to Chicago.

Poll

The Marquee Network should place the scorebox...

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    ... exactly where it is now, centered at the bottom of the screen
    (33 votes)
  • 66%
    ... at the top left of the screen
    (190 votes)
  • 19%
    ... at the bottom right of the screen (like Fox-TV)
    (56 votes)
  • 1%
    ... somewhere else (leave in comments)
    (5 votes)
284 votes total Vote Now