The massive pushback against Fox’s new camera angles has produced results, with the network electing to go away from the high center field camera at Wrigley Field that created so many complaints and return to the lower, off-set camera traditionally used from that ballpark when the National League Championship Series starts there Saturday. Fox Sports’ Mike Davies told Phil Rosenthal of The Chicago Tribune that the change was made in response to viewer feedback:
“We listened to what was going on,” Mike Davies, Fox Sports’ senior vice president of field and technical operations, said before the Cubs closed out their divisional playoff Tuesday in San Francisco. “We decided we’re just going to move it back. … The tradeoffs weren’t worth it.“
Whether the complaints were fueled by the new camera position itself, Fox’s use of it, viewer aesthetics and resistance to change, or some other factor doesn’t matter as much as the vehemence of the complaints.
Davies wants it known, however, that Fox Sports was just trying to reproduce a straight-on camera angle of home plate common around the league, minimizing blockage by players. And center-field was not the only higher-than-usual camera angle Fox embraced.
“We definitely put some thought into it,” Davies said.
Fox had tested the position at Wrigley that raised a fuss before it sank money into building a platform. It put a camera there during its telecast of the Cubs’ regular-season finale.
ESPN had used it at some point, too, Davies said. There was mild pushback at most.
Friday night during Game 1, however, people teed off.
Many of the complaints focused on the shot from center. You would have thought someone had trashed Chicago pizza or insisted on putting ketchup on hot dogs.
“People didn’t like it, so we go back. That’s fine,” Davies said. “People just weren’t used to seeing that camera angle from Wrigley. We thought it was good but we’ll change it.”
It’s good to see a network respond to viewer feedback in this way. It’s worth noting that the issues with that shot went beyond just “people don’t like new things,” though; the view was so zoomed out that it was difficult to make out much of what was going on. You can see that by looking at this center field high angle from Fox below, followed by the off-center angle normally used by local channels (images via Bleed Cubbie Blue):
With that in mind, Davies’ closing line suggesting this is all about Cubs’ fans not being ready for change feels a bit off, and unnecessarily snippy:
“Obviously that (high center-field) camera angle works pretty well the rest of the time” at other ballparks,” Davies said. “Maybe you just weren’t ready for it yet.”
It’s worth pointing out that broadcasting executives don’t always know what’s best, and that for every innovation that works and becomes an accepted part of the sports broadcasting world, there are many that fail miserably. Sports TV broadcasts are an interesting market, as putting events on only one channel means viewers’ only choice is to watch or not watch a particular event, not pick which network’s coverage they approve of. Just pulling in good ratings doesn’t mean a broadcast was good, and just pulling in poor ratings doesn’t mean it was a flop. However, viewer feedback is still notable, and this case shows that it can still get results if it reaches critical mass. Davies may think that angle “works pretty well,” but the viewers who “weren’t ready for it yet” got their voices heard and got what they wanted in this particular instance. Hopefully, Fox will go away from their silly shot focused on catcher signs as well, as this one didn’t win many fans either: