NFL on Fox
|NFL on Fox|
Logo used since the 2003 NFL season
|Starring||Fox NFL Sunday crew
NFL on Fox game commentators
|Country of origin||United States|
Fox Network Center, Los Angeles (studio)
|Running time||180 minutes or until game ends|
|Production company(s)||National Football League
1080i 16:9 (HDTV)
|Original run||September 4, 1994– present|
NFL on Fox is the brand name of the Fox Broadcasting Company's coverage of the National Football League's National Football Conference games, produced by Fox Sports. Game coverage is usually preceded by the pre-game show Fox NFL Sunday and followed by The OT, a postgame show with the Fox NFL Sunday hosts, between the end of the last game and the start of prime time programming.
Theme music 
The broadcast's distinctive theme music has been used since its inception in 1994. Derivatives of the NFL on Fox theme have been incorporated throughout Fox Sports' programming, including Fox Sports Networks, as Fox Sports' overall theme, and Fox registered the original theme as a U.S. trademark in 2006. The theme was produced by Scott Schreer through his production company NJJ Music. The theme was composed by Scott Schreer, Reed Hays and Phil Garrod, who pitched three separate songs to Fox, who then spliced them together into one. Furthermore, when there is a score alert or broadcast announcement, a short chime-based version of the melody is played, similar in style to the NBC chimes. A more somber version of the song is played when the game goes into a commercial break during an injury timeout.
In October 2010, the NFL on Fox theme was implemented on all Fox Sports properties, including baseball and the UEFA Champions League. It was first implemented on the network's baseball broadcasts beginning with the 2010 National League Championship Series and then was implemented on its NASCAR broadcasts, the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United in 2011, and for UFC events as well. As a result of Fox using its NFL theme during the 2010 MLB playoffs, there has been some backlash from fans who preferred to hear the theme that Fox used for MLB in the past. A poll by Sports Media Watch noted that as of October 23, 2010, while nearly 60% of fans thought that Fox made a bad move, only 10% thought it was a good move and 30% had no opinion (all percentages rounded). As of September 2012, at least four Facebook pages have been also created as a result of this change, more specifically a campaign has been started to bring the MLB theme back to Fox baseball broadcasts.
Eric Shanks has already taken heavy flack for his proposal of using a dramatic soundtrack during the ongoing game action (such as during the December 12, 2010 game between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks).
Though Fox was growing rapidly as a network, and had established itself as a presence, it was still not considered a major competitor to the "big three" broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC). Fox management, having seen the critical role that soccer programming had played in the growth of British satellite service BSkyB, believed that sports, and specifically professional football, would be the engine that would make Fox a major network the quickest.
Early bids 
To this end, Fox bid aggressively for football from the start. In 1987 (Fox's first full year on the air), after ABC initially hedged on renewing its contract to carry Monday Night Football, Fox offered the NFL to pick up the contract for the same amount ABC had been paying, about $1.3 billion at the time. However, the NFL, in part because Fox had not established itself as a major network, chose to renew their contract with ABC.
Meanwhile, after the Fox Television Network was launched, United States Football League founder David Dixon proposed the "American Football Federation", which would have 10 teams and draft academically ineligible high school graduates.
Despite a few successful shows, the network did not have a significant market share until the early 1990s when News Corp. bought more TV station groups, such as New World Communications and Chris-Craft Industries' BHC Communications and United Television, making it the largest owner of television stations in the United States. The time now filled by the NFL on Fox on Sunday afternoons was formerly in the control of the stations themselves, who usually filled them with either weekend syndicated series or Sunday afternoon movie blocks.
Fox outbids CBS for the NFC package 
Six years later, when the football contract was up for renewal again, Fox made what at the time, was a bold and aggressive move to acquire the rights. Knowing that they would likely need to bid considerably more than the incumbent networks to acquire a piece of the package, Fox bid $1.58 billion for four years of rights to the NFC, exceeding CBS' bid by more than $100 million a year. The NFC was considered the more desirable conference (as opposed to the AFC package that NBC carried at the time) due to its presence in most of the largest U.S. markets, such as New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. To the surprise and shock of many, in late 1993, the NFL selected the Fox bid, in the process stripping CBS of football for the first time since 1956. Fox's coverage would start in the 1994 season.
CBS apparently underestimated the value of its rights with respect to its advertising revenues and to its promotional opportunities for other network programming. Indeed, Fox was still an upstart player in 1993, not yet considered on par with the "Big Three" networks--CBS, NBC and ABC. The network had already had offbeat hits such as The Simpsons, Married...With Children and Beverly Hills, 90210. However, Fox did not have a sports division to that point, their news division was several years away from fruition, and Fox affiliates were often found on either UHF stations or low-powered stations.
CBS personalities move to Fox 
However, the vast resources of Rupert Murdoch allowed the network to grow quickly, primarily to the detriment of CBS. After bringing in David Hill from Murdoch's U.K.-based Sky Sports to head-up the new Fox Sports division, Fox raided the CBS Sports staff, hiring longtime producer Ed Goren as Hill's second-in-command. Fox was also able to procure Pat Summerall and John Madden to be its lead broadcast team, as they had been so for CBS. Terry Bradshaw, who was previously co-host of The NFL Today, was added to be the pregame show's lead analyst. Dick Stockton and Matt Millen were also added from CBS and became the network's #2 broadcast team, while James Brown, who had called games for CBS, was hired to be the studio host.
In spring 1994, Fox's parent News Corporation struck an alliance with New World Communications, by now a key ownership group with several VHF CBS affiliates in NFC markets, and wary of a CBS without football. Nearly all of New World's stations converted en masse to Fox beginning that fall. The rights gave Fox many new viewers (and affiliates) and a platform for advertising its other shows.
A brand new era 
Fox's acquisition of football was a watershed event not only for the network but for the NFL as well. Not only was it the event that placed Fox on a par with the "big three" broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) but it also ushered in an era of growth for the NFL which continues on largely to this day.
While the heavy concentration of population in NFC markets – as opposed to the smaller markets generally served by the AFC – virtually guaranteed a substantial audience, its instant success has nonetheless been remarkable given the substantial differences between Fox's coverage and the coverage provided by ABC, CBS, ESPN, TNT, and NBC up to that time.
"Same Game, New Attitude" 
Fox's launch slogan was "Same Game, New Attitude." Indeed, its studio show focused more on entertainment and less on in-depth discussion of X's and O's. It also introduced bolder and innovative graphics, for instance, a continuous on-screen time-and-score graphic that Hill had originally used on Sky Sports's coverage of the Premier League. Fox also used parabolic microphones to include the sounds of the stands and of the on-field action. These innovations were quickly adopted by rival networks and helped to drive the development of further innovations such as the virtual first-down line.
Post-game show: The OT 
In 2005, the NFL on Fox decided to name its post-game show The OT and expand it to the full hour before 8pm ET/7pm CT in order to remove the possibility of ratings damage to new episodes and series in that slot which traditionally were pre-empted by games most every week to viewer frustration for fans of those programs and to keep the remainder of Fox's Sunday night schedule on track to allow Fox's local stations to start their primetime newscasts on time (expendable reruns of Fox's animated series air in other equivalent time zones). In part, this was done as an in-joke to promote Fox's Thursday soap The O.C., which began its third season in September 2005. That program ended in May 2007; however, The OT has been retained as the post-game show title to the present day. The program usually goes to fill the full hour, which provides some form of competition to NBC's Football Night in America.
Changes for 2006 
After the 2005 season, James Brown left Fox to return to CBS Sports, where he would be the host of The NFL Today. On August 16, 2006, after weeks of speculation, the network officially announced that Joe Buck would take over the role. The move also changed the show from a permanent Los Angeles studio into a portable studio configuration, similar to the pregame show for NASCAR on Fox, where analysts Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, and Jimmy Johnson joined Buck at the game to which Buck is assigned as play-by-play announcer. Curt Menefee worked all halftime shows and all postgame shows on non-doubleheader Sundays, also from the same game site with the same analysts. Menefee hosted Fox NFL Sunday during the several weeks in October when Buck was not available; during that time, Buck called Major League Baseball postseason games, including the World Series. The October 15, 22 and 29 shows were broadcast from the Los Angeles studios; the show returned to the road on November 5.
It was also announced that weather reporter Jillian Barberie (now Jillian Reynolds) would not return for the coming season, as Barberie wished to stay at home in Los Angeles with her family. Barberie did participate in at least one of the studio shows.
On November 17, 2006, a source told the Los Angeles Times that the final two pregame shows of 2006 would take place in the Los Angeles studios, with Buck hosting and Dick Stockton taking Buck's place at the games alongside Troy Aikman. The source cited that declining ratings no longer justified its high production costs, including security expenses. A Fox spokesman would only say that changes were being considered.
2006 playoffs controversies 
The Fox Broadcasting Company came under fire by the Parents Television Council for showing a New Orleans Saints fan wearing a shirt reading "FUCK DA EAGLES" in Saints colors. Three days after the broadcast, the network apologized. The Saints fan, Heather Rothstein, was contacted by Maxim magazine and was given a photo shoot.
Also during the 2006 NFC Championship between the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field, in one shot from the overhead camera angle of the crowd, three Bears fans were seen giving a middle finger gesture towards the field.
Changes for 2007 
After the 2006 NFL season, Fox NFL Sunday returned to the Los Angeles studio throughout the entire 2007 regular season and for the 2 weeks of that year's postseason. Curt Menefee became the full-time host of the pregame show, while Joe Buck reverted to play-by-play only.
2010 Monday night special 
Fox presented a limited Monday night game between the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings on December 13, 2010. The game had been originally scheduled to be played on the afternoon on December 12, but due to the collapse of the roof of the Metrodome due to a heavy snow event early that morning, the game was moved on short notice to Ford Field in Detroit as that facility already had their full television setup still in place after a Packers/Lions game. Fox Sports had kept their cameras on in the Metrodome overnight the night before the original date of the game and captured the roof collapse in full detail; the video of multiple angles of the early morning collapse was aired on that morning's Fox NFL Sunday and quickly went viral.
The game was only made available on the main Fox stations in the New York and Twin Cities media markets; WNYW in New York and WXXA aired the game in the New York and Albany metro areas, while Minneapolis area station KMSP, Rochester, Minnesota's KXLT and Duluth, Minnesota's KQDS-TV carried the game for the Vikings' markets. The game was also carried on DirecTV via their NFL Sunday Ticket package.
Coincidentally, this was the first game since 1992 that Brett Favre did not start an NFL game, as he was made inactive due to a shoulder injury, ending his streak of 297 consecutive regular season games; Tavaris Jackson started in his place and subsequently Joe Webb's first ever down in an NFL game. In addition, it was the first ever regular-season Monday night game in Ford Field.
Long term contract extension (2014—2022) 
On December 14, 2011, the NFL, along with Fox, NBC and CBS, announced the league's rights deal with all three networks was extended to the end of the 2022 season. The three network rights deal includes the continued rotation of the Super Bowl yearly among the three, meaning Fox will air Super Bowls XLVIII (2014), LI (2017), LIV (2020) and LVII (2023).
Digital on-screen graphics 
In its debut in the 1994 season, Fox's coverage featured the first "scoring bug." A transparent white half-capsule-shaped graphic in the upper left corner of the screen displayed the score and game clock throughout the entire telecast, an NFL first.
By 1996, the graphic changed to a full-statistics panel, where down and distance, penalty, and key in-game statistics would pop in and out when necessary. It was named the "FOX BOX", and its basic design mimicked the "FOX BOX" used in Fox's MLB coverage. For Fox's coverage of Super Bowl XXXIII at the end of the 1998 season, the starting lines ups were shown using a virtual TV. To TV viewers, it appeared as if the end zone opened up and a giant TV came up out of the ground. The virtual TV displayed video announcing the starting line ups. The virtual TV effect was provided by PVI Virtual Media Services using their L-VIS virtual graphics system.
In 2001, Fox implemented a new graphics package for NFL telecasts, an updated version of the 1998 design, but the graphic changed from a bug to a banner spanning the top of the screen, and included a scrolling graphic displaying real-time scores of other games in progress. A simple black rectangle with a shaded transparent area spanned the top of the screen from left to right, displaying the abbreviations of both teams in white. The scores would be shown in white boxes next to the team. The center showed the game clock in white, to its right was the quarter ("1st QTR", "2nd QTR", etc.), and to the right of the quarter was the play clock. The far right was the NFL on Fox logo. For the 2002 season, the white scoring boxes where changed to yellow. This was first seen during Super Bowl XXXVI. This was also the last year that a team's initials would flash in its two primary colors along with percussive sound beats when that team scored (for example, when the Green Bay Packers scored a touchdown on Fox, the "GB" initials and box would flash in green and gold for a few seconds as the six points for the TD were added, then again with the extra point). This banner was used for Major League Baseball on Fox broadcasts through most of the 2004 season.
The banner was given a cosmetic upgrade beginning with the 2003 season. Instead of a large black rectangle, the banner alternated between a large back rectangle and several small, black parallelograms, and the shaded area above it was removed. Instead of abbreviations for the teams, their logos were now used. During the 2003 NFL playoffs, the logos were reduced in size, and the team abbreviations were put back beside them. The banner returned to a large black rectangle at the start of the 2004 season. with the team logos looking more "3-dimensional", and electronic lettering in the team's main color was used whenever that certain team calls timeout, scores a touchdown, or a field goal. It would be in red whenever the team challenges a play. Also during a touchdown or field goal, the right side of the banner would have a split flashing "light", then the words "TOUCHDOWN or FIELD GOAL" and the team's name in electronic lettering moving left. Midway through 2004, the team logos were replaced with the abbreviations. This time, they were electronic lettering in the team's main color, and this was first seen on Major League Baseball on Fox postseason broadcasts that year. When team-specific information was displayed in the banner, such as the hang time of a punt or a touchdown, the abbreviation would change back to the team's logo. During the 2005 holiday season, for the week 15 Saturday game (Tampa Bay at New England), a new white banner, resembling a chrome finish and first introduced at the start of Fox's coverage of the 2005 World Series, debuted with animated snow accumulating on top. Periodically an animated snowplow would clear the screen of snow. The following week, the new banner was adopted for all games, however without the snow animation. The team abbreviations became white letters against the team's main color. This banner was used for Major League Baseball on Fox broadcasts through the 2007 season.
The score banner was upgraded again for the 2006 season. It now features the real-time scores as a permanent fixture on the extreme right side of the bar, while the coloring of the banner changes to the colors of the team currently possessing the ball.
During playoff games and games featured on special days or holidays (such as the Thanksgiving Classic, AFC vs. NFC game), the scoring bar instead shows either the NFL Thanksgiving Classic logo, the NFL Divisional Playoffs/NFC Championship logo, or a special banner celebrating whichever holiday falls during that week from Fox Sports (for instance, confetti and a party horn with a traditional Happy New Year message).
At the beginning of the 2006 season, a virtual on-field graphic showing an arrow pointing towards the direction of advancement and the down/yardage information began to be used on all plays. This feature was then added by the NFL on CBS, NBC Sunday Night Football, NFL Network's Run to the Playoffs and (beginning with the 2008 season) ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcasts. At the same time, the down/yardage information also displays on the scoring banner, resulting in duplicate presentation of the same information. The bar has also been enhanced for HDTV and is thinner than previous versions, with little transparency. Also, the NFL on Fox logo is on the far left instead of the far right. On the HDTV broadcasts, the area above the banner features a translucent slanting pattern going from left-to-right across the screen. During the 2006 preseason telecasts, the quarter was indicated by illuminating four buttons (number of buttons lit indicated the quarter), but due to visibility difficulties, the quarter returned to being numerically represented for the regular season.
On rare occasion during a game in which the field lines are not visible (such as those dealing with snow or rain), a small bug pops up on the bottom left side of the screen with the logo of the team who currently has possession as well as text indicating where the ball is (e.g. Arizona-Own 41 Yard Line.)
Most recently, scores from other NFL games that appear on the right side of the banner would have an arrow indicating which team had the ball, as of November 15, 2009. When the arrow is red, it means that the team is at the redzone. Fox's NFL telecasts were the only major NFL telecasts to have no timeout indicators until the 2010 season (see "2010-present" below for more), save for the number of timeouts that each team has on the right side of the banner.
December 31, 2006 San Francisco/Denver game 
There was one exception to this package for the 2006 season, as Fox had to revert to the then-current Fox Sports Net (and former main Fox Sports) scoring banner and graphics package for its final regular season game of the year, San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos on December 31, 2006, due to a second blizzard in a week hitting Denver, preventing the usual amount of equipment for Fox's NFL coverage to arrive before the game. FSN Rocky Mountain (Denver's FSN network) assisted in the production of the game on short notice by providing the graphical production and other production services. Also, the "1st & Ten" graphic lines denoting the line of scrimmage and first down line were unavailable for this broadcast. This graphic was also used in Week 5 of the 2007 season in a game between the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams.
Fox's new graphics package for NFL games debuted during a pre-season game on August 19, 2010, as Fox began to broadcast their sports programming with graphics optimized for 16:9 displays rather than the 4:3 safe area and the network has asked cable and satellite providers to comply and use the #10 Active Format Description code they now send out over Fox programming, which has 16:9 content display in letterboxed mode on 4:3 screens (or to most viewers, the regular analog channel on their system), in concert with Fox's news operations also going to full widescreen presentation. This was promoted in that first game by the Fox broadcast team as giving a 'widescreen viewing experience' to standard definition viewers, using the usual examples of more video information on the screen to demonstrate the new presentation (such as two cheerleaders off to the side displayed in a widescreen shot, but cut out of a 4:3 shot) 
The graphics package is an upgraded version of the 2006 design with a "much more colorful 3D look", implemented using a new infrastructure using products developed by Vizrt, which would also be rolled out to other Fox Sports networks in the following months. The score banner previously used was replaced by an unconventional Fox Box-styled layout, positioned in the top left corner of the screen, with team logos and scores on either side, lights indicating timeouts on the side rims, with the play clock and quarter positioned in the center. Initially, the play clock also appeared within the center area with 10 seconds remaining, sliding the time remaining in the quarter up. However, the play clock indicator was soon moved to the bar sliding out of the bottom to show downage.
Due to issues with some cable providers and Fox affiliates (particularly those carried by digital subchannels or low power analog television stations) in implementing the AFD #10 widescreen mode, or for other broadcasters that still broadcast with content framed for 4:3 displays instead of defaulting to 16:9 like Fox (such as CBS and NBC, along with ESPN and NFL Network until they too switched to 16:9 with letterboxed SD feeds), feeds of Fox's NFL games have been offered with graphics positioned for 4:3 displays instead of 16:9, and in most cases, only one game per week was broadcast with 16:9 graphics.
Small tweaks were made for the 2011 season, including the timeout indicators counting upward instead of downward, and the possession indicator now appearing alongside the team that currently has the ball. Additionally, the scoreboard next to the Fox Sports bug for out-of-town games was replaced by a traditional ticker. The bug was made slightly smaller and rounder as well.
On Thanksgiving, the FoxBox is featured with digitally animated falling leaves falling on it. During the last two weeks of December, in observance of the Christmas and holiday season, the FoxBox is featured with falling snow piling on top, and the timeout indicators changed to resemble strings of Christmas lights.
After two years of using the unconventional layout, for 2012, a more traditional FoxBox was introduced; team abbreviations are stacked on the left side of the box, on the team's primary color, with timeout lights positioned underneath each team abbreviation, and a possession indicator to the left of it. The clock/quarter indicator is on the right side. Down and distance pops out of the bottom, while the timeout/penalty/touchdown animation is the same as in the unconventional design of the previous two seasons.
Also for 2012, Fox has added Spanish play-by-play commentary of all games to the secondary audio program channel.
Fox NFL Sunday had been the ratings leader among network pregame coverage from the time of its debut in 1994 (as, at the time, it was the only network pregame show to air for one hour prior to kickoff). In 2006, however, CBS' The NFL Today overtook the Fox pregame in the ratings. The swing in ratings was said to be correlated with the move of Fox NFL Sunday host James Brown back to CBS, where he had been broadcasting before his jump to Fox in 1994.
Fox's 2008 telecast of Super Bowl XLII was the 2nd most watched Super Bowl (Giants vs. Patriots) in history, with 97.5 million viewers. It was also the second-most-watched TV program behind the 1983 M*A*S*H series finale. Coincidentally, the Phoenix area hosted Super Bowl XXX (which aired on NBC), the third most viewed Super Bowl in NFL history, with 95.1 million viewers, in 1996.
With an average US audience of 111 million viewers, Super Bowl XLV became the most-watched Super Bowl as well as the most-watched program of any kind in American television history, beating the previous record of 106.5 million viewers for Super Bowl XLIV. An estimated 162.9 million total viewers watched all or part of the game. The game drew a national household Nielsen rating of 46.0 and a 69 share. It drew a 59.7 local rating in both Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, the second-highest local rating for a Super Bowl after the 63.0 that Super Bowl XX drew in Chicago. In the host market of Dallas-Ft. Worth, the game drew a 53.7 rating.
In-studio personalities 
In-game commentators (past & present) 
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