NFL on Fox
|NFL on Fox|
Fox NFL logo used since 2014.
|Also known as||Fox NFL|
|Genre||Football game telecasts|
|Presented by||Fox NFL Sunday crew
NFL on Fox game commentators
|Theme music composer||Scott Schreer|
|Opening theme||"NFL on Fox theme music"|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||21|
|Location(s)||Various NFL stadiums (game telecasts)
Fox Network Center, Los Angeles (studio segments, pregame and postgame shows)
|Running time||180 minutes or until game ends|
|Production company(s)||National Football League
NFL Sunday Ticket
Fox Deportes (Spanish language, select regular season and playoff games)
|Picture format||480i (SDTV; 1994–2009)
720p (HDTV; 2006–present)
(HD feed downgraded to letterboxed 480i on SDTV feed)
|Original release||August 12, 1994– present|
|Related shows||FOX NFL Sunday|
NFL on Fox (also known visually as Fox NFL) is the branding used for broadcasts of National Football League (NFL) games produced by Fox Sports and televised on the Fox Broadcasting Company. Game coverage is usually preceded by the pre-game show Fox NFL Sunday and its is followed on most weeks by post-game show The OT. Both shows feature the same studio hosts and analysts for the programs.
The network aired its inaugural NFL game telecast on August 12, 1994, with a preseason match between the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Coverage formally began the following month on September 4, with the premiere of Fox NFL Sunday, followed by a slate of six regionally televised regular season games on the first Sunday of the 1994 season.
- 1 History
- 2 Commentators
- 3 Game schedules
- 4 Theme music
- 5 Digital on-screen graphics
- 6 Nielsen ratings
- 7 Criticism and controversies
- 8 References
- 9 External links
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 turn Fox into a major network the quickest.
To this end, Fox had bid aggressively for football broadcast rights from the start. In 1987, Fox's first full year on the air, ABC initially hedged on renewing its contract to carry Monday Night Football – then the league's crown-jewel program – as was in the middle of negotiations to reach a new contract, due to an increased expense of the rights. Fox made an offer to the National Football League to acquire the Monday Night Football contract for the same amount ABC that had been paying to carry the package, 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 its contract with ABC.
Meanwhile, after the Fox Broadcasting Company was launched, David Dixon, founder of the United States Football League, proposed the creation of the "American Football Federation," a league that would be made up of ten teams and draft high school graduates who were declared academically ineligible to play College Football by the NCAA.
Despite having a few successful shows in its slate, the network did not have a significant market share until the early 1990s when Fox parent News Corporation (which became 21st Century Fox through the July 2013 spin-off of its publishing unit, now the current News Corp.) began to upgrade some of its local affiliates – and eventually purchased additional stations from other television 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 Fox NFL on Sunday afternoons during the fall and winter months was formerly in the control of the stations themselves (and still is to some extent outside of the NFL season, particularly during weeks when no sports programming is scheduled at all by the network, as well as on non-doubleheader weeks during the season), which usually filled the timeslots with either syndicated television series (both first-run and off-network) and/or movie blocks. Sunday afternoon timeslot in spring is filled by Fox NASCAR from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Fox outbids CBS for the NFC package
Six years after its first attempt, the league's television contracts for both conferences and for the Sunday and Monday prime time football packages came up for renewal again in 1993, when Fox made what at the time, was a bold and aggressive move to acquire the rights. Knowing that it would likely need to bid considerably more than the incumbent networks to acquire a piece of the package, Fox bid $1.58 billion to obtain a four-year contract for the broadcast rights to the National Football Conference (NFC), exceeding CBS' bid by more than $100 million per year. The NFC was considered the more desirable conference (as opposed to the American Football Conference (AFC) package that NBC carried at the time) due to its presence in most of the largest U.S. markets, such as New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia. To the surprise and shock of many in the sports and media industries, on December 17, 1993, the NFL selected the bid offered by Fox, in the process stripping CBS of football for the first time since 1956. Fox's coverage, in addition to being able to televise NFC regular season and playoff games, also included the exclusive U.S. television rights to Super Bowl XXXI (held in 1997) under the initial contract, which took effect with the 1994 season.
CBS – which under the stewardship of then chief executive officer Laurence Tisch, developed an overly budgeted and stodgy image – had apparently underestimated the value of its NFL rights with respect to its advertising revenues and to its promotional opportunities for other programming on the network. Indeed, Fox was still an upstart player in 1993, not yet considered on par with CBS, NBC and ABC, the three longer established major networks (Fox, by comparsion, had debuted in October 1986 as the only venture at a fourth television network since the 1956 demise of the DuMont Television Network to truly compete with the "Big Three"). The network already had offbeat hits such as The Simpsons, Married... with Children and Beverly Hills, 90210 on its schedule. However, Fox did not have a sports division up to that point, and its news division was a few years away from fruition (most Fox stations outside of a few owned by the network did not even produce their own news programming), and Fox affiliates were often either full-power UHF stations or low-powered stations.
CBS personalities move to Fox
The vast resources that Rupert Murdoch had 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 began luring over members of 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, a capacity they had been serving for CBS. Terry Bradshaw, who was previously co-host of The NFL Today, was added to serve as the pregame show's lead analyst. Dick Stockton and Matt Millen also came over from CBS and became the network's #2 broadcast team, while James Brown, who had called play-by-play for CBS' game telecasts, was hired to be the studio host.
Fox then sought to raise its station profile as the start of its NFL contract came closer by approaching other broadcasters about switching their VHF stations (channels 2 to 13) to the network from one of the other established networks. On May 23, 1994, News Corporation struck an alliance with New World Communications, a television and film production company that by now was a key station group with several VHF CBS affiliates in NFC markets in its portfolio, and wary of a CBS without football. Through the deal, in which also Fox purchased a 20% interest in the company, nearly all of New World's stations (including several that the company was in the process of acquiring from Citicasters and Argyle Communications at the time the deal was struck) switched en masse to Fox beginning that September and continuing through September 1996 as existing affiliation contracts with their previous network partners came to an end (network subsidiary Fox Television Stations bought New World Communications outright in July 1996).
In the summer of 1994, SF Broadcasting (a recently formed joint venture between Fox and Savoy Pictures) purchased four stations from Burnham Broadcasting, which also became Fox affiliates between September 1995 and January 1996. In the NFC markets affected by the deals, Fox gained VHF affiliates in eight primary markets (Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Green Bay, New Orleans, Phoenix, St. Louis and Tampa) and three satellite markets (Austin, Greensboro and Milwaukee), adding to the three that the network had before the deal. The new affiliates in St. Louis and Greensboro switched shortly before the Rams relocated from Los Angeles and the Carolina Panthers began play with the 1995 preseason. Besides giving the network leverage in attracting new affiliates, the rights gave Fox many new viewers and a platform for advertising its other shows.
Fox's acquisition of the National Football Conference contract severely affected CBS, beyond losing a marquee sporting event and some of its key talent and production staff. Not only was it largely relegated to former Fox affiliates and lesser known independent stations in the markets affected by Fox's affiliation agreement with New World, but CBS' older-skewing programming slate caused it to struggle further in the ratings, pushing it to third place, ahead of fourth-place Fox. CBS began rebuilding itself after the network took the AFC television contract from NBC in 1998.
A brand new era
Fox's acquisition of National Football League television rights 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, but it also ushered in an era of growth for the NFL, which continues on largely to this day. While the heavy concentration of major cities 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 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 used the slogan "Same Game, New Attitude" to promote its news NFL package (it did the same for its new Major League Baseball coverage in 1996). The network's pre-game show, Fox NFL Sunday focused more on entertainment and less on in-depth discussion of game strategy. Fox's NFL coverage also introduced bolder and innovative graphics, for instance, the FoxBox, a continuous on-screen time-and-score graphic that Hill had originally used on Sky Sports's coverage of the Premier League. It also used parabolic microphones to include the sounds of the stands and of the on-field action (including conversations and strategy outlines between coaches and players). These innovations were adopted by rival networks and helped to drive the development of further innovations such as the on-air display of virtual first-down and scrimmage lines.
Post-game show: The OT
Beginning in 2005, Fox's post-game show was expanded to an hour-long slot (regularly scheduled at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time) and branded as The OT (a possibly intentional nod to the title of the Fox drama series The O.C.), competing against NBC's primetime pregame Football Night in America. The program, in addition to providing analysis of the day's NFL games, also includes occasional look-ins of any remaining ongoing regional games.
Fox had previously scheduled first-run sitcoms and animated series in the 7:00 p.m. hour during the NFL season, but these were often subjected to pre-emption (resulting in episodes being delayed by one week or more) due to overruns of late afternoon games into the hour, which impacted their ratings performance; as a result of the postgame show's expansion, the network generally delayed carriage of first-run programming during the first hour of Sunday prime time to midseason (one exception was the freshman sitcom Mulaney in 2014, which was pushed to the hour that November due to struggling ratings in its original 9:30 Eastern slot), primarily limited to burn-offs of already failed series.
Changes for 2006
After the 2005 season, James Brown left Fox to return to CBS Sports, where he would become the host of the CBS network's NFL pregame show The NFL Today. On August 16, 2006, after weeks of speculation, the network officially announced that Joe Buck would take over the role as host vacated by Brown. The move also resulted in the show switching from being broadcast from a permanent Los Angeles studio to a portable studio configuration, similar to the pregame show for NASCAR on Fox, in which analysts Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson joined Buck at the stadium site to which Buck is assigned as play-by-play announcer for one of that week's telecasts. Curt Menefee worked all halftime shows and all postgame shows on Sundays when no doubleheader was scheduled, 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 pregame shows on October 15, 22 and 29 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. During the 2006 season, Chris Rose provided narrated updates highlighting other NFL games during the Fox broadcasts from the Los Angeles studio.
On November 17, 2006, a source told the Los Angeles Times that the final two pregame shows of the 2006 season would take place in the Los Angeles studios, with Buck hosting and Dick Stockton taking Buck's place on play-by-play duties 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.
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 two weeks of that year's postseason. Curt Menefee became the full-time host of the pregame show, while Joe Buck reverted to strictly handling play-by-play duties.
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 early that morning due to weight from heavy snowpack, 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 originally scheduled game day and captured the stadium roof collapse in full detail; the video of the early morning collapse, captured at multiple angles, aired on that day's edition of 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; owned-and-operated station WNYW and affiliate WXXA-TV aired the game in the New York City and Albany television markets, while Minneapolis–St. Paul owned-and-operated station KMSP-TV, and affiliates KXLT-TV in Rochester and KQDS-TV in Duluth, Minnesota carried the game for the Vikings' markets. The game was also carried on satellite provider DirecTV through its NFL Sunday Ticket package.
Coincidentally, this was the first game since 1992 that Brett Favre did not start an NFL game, as he was placed on the inactive list due to a shoulder injury, ending his streak of 297 consecutive regular season games; Tavaris Jackson started in his place and subsequently Joe Webb had his 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 that the league had extended rights deal with all three networks through the 2022 season. The three-network rights deal includes the continued yearly rotation of the Super Bowl between Fox, NBC and CBS, meaning that Fox would air Super Bowls XLVIII (2014), LI (2017), LIV (2020), and LVII (2023). The 2013 season marked Fox's 20th season of NFL coverage.
Under the terms of the new contract, which began with the 2014 season, the flexible scheduling rule started in 2006 was modified. In order to ensure both Fox and CBS would feature all 32 NFL teams at least once during the season, the league reserves the right to "cross-flex" the games to the other network, to ensure both networks would have a minimum of five games weekly, with a minimum of one game in each slot. The cross-flex rule also permits the NFL to change networks for Week 17 games in order to guarantee all four games (both networks air a doubleheader in Week 17) have playoff importance and gives each network an equally important primary game in each time slot. Thus, while Fox still mainly airs games in which both teams are NFC members and games in which the road team is from the NFC, Fox began occasionally airing games between two AFC teams and games in which the road team is an AFC franchise. However Fox will still air significantly fewer of these games than CBS, because of the fact that that network owns an additional contract to air games on Thursdays. Fox's first interconference game involving an AFC road opponent was actually a special situation in 2011 between the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings. The first game between two AFC teams that was sent to Fox using cross-flex aired in Week 6 of the 2014 season, between the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots.
In-game commentators (past and present)
|August 12, 1994||8:00 p.m. Eastern||Denver at San Francisco||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|September 4, 1994 (doubleheader)||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Atlanta at Detroit||Thom Brennaman and Anthony Muñoz|
|Minnesota at Green Bay||Kevin Harlan and Jerry Glanville|
|Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants||Dick Stockton and Matt Millen|
|Tampa Bay at Chicago||Joe Buck and Tim Green|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||Arizona at L.A. Rams||Kenny Albert and Ron Pitts|
|Dallas at Pittsburgh||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|September 11, 1994||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Detroit at Minnesota||Dick Stockton and Matt Millen|
|L.A. Rams at Atlanta||Joe Buck and Tim Green|
|San Francisco at Kansas City||Pat Summerall, John Madden and Anthony Muñoz|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||Washington at New Orleans||Kevin Harlan and Jerry Glanville|
|September 18, 1994 (doubleheader)||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Arizona at Cleveland||Kenny Albert and Ron Pitts|
|Green Bay at Philadelphia||Dick Stockton and Matt Millen|
|Minnesota at Chicago||Kevin Harlan and Jerry Glanville|
|New Orleans at Tampa Bay||Thom Brennaman and Anthony Muñoz|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||San Francisco at L.A. Rams||Joe Buck and Tim Green|
|Washington at N.Y. Giants||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|September 25, 1994||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Atlanta at Washington||Dick Stockton and Matt Millen|
|L.A. Rams at Kansas City||Joe Buck and Tim Green|
|Tampa Bay at Green Bay||Kenny Albert and Ron Pitts|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||New Orleans at San Francisco||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|October 2, 1994 (doubleheader)||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Dallas at Washington||Dick Stockton and Matt Millen|
|Detroit at Tampa Bay||Mike Breen and Marcus Allen|
|Green Bay at New England||Kevin Harlan and Jerry Glanville|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||Atlanta at L.A. Rams||Kenny Albert and Ron Pitts|
|Minnesota at Arizona||Thom Brennaman and Anthony Muñoz|
|N.Y. Giants at New Orleans||Joe Buck and Tim Green|
|Philadelphia at San Francisco||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|October 9, 1994||1:00 p.m. Eastern||L.A. Rams at Green Bay||Thom Brennaman and Anthony Muñoz|
|New Orleans at Chicago||Kevin Harlan and Jerry Glanville|
|San Francisco at Detroit||Dick Stockton, Matt Millen and Kevin Frazier|
|Tampa Bay at Atlanta||Joe Buck and Tim Green|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||Arizona at Dallas||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|October 16, 1994 (doubleheader)||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Arizona at Washington||Thom Brennaman and Anthony Muñoz|
|San Francisco at Atlanta||Dick Stockton, Matt Millen and Ron Pitts|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||N.Y. Giants at L.A. Rams||Kevin Harlan and Jerry Glanville|
|Philadelphia at Dallas||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|October 23, 1994 (doubleheader)||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Chicago at Detroit||Dick Stockton and Matt Millen|
|L.A. Rams at New Orleans||Joe Buck and Tim Green|
|Washington at Indianapolis||Kevin Harlan and Jerry Glanville|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||Atlanta at L.A. Raiders||Thom Brennaman and Anthony Muñoz|
|Dallas at Arizona||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|Tampa Bay at San Francisco||Kenny Albert and Ron Pitts|
|October 30, 1994||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Dallas at Cincinnati||Joe Buck, Tim Green and Kevin Frazier|
|Detroit at N.Y. Giants||Pat Summerall, John Madden and Anthony Muñoz|
|Philadelphia at Washington||Dick Stockton and Matt Millen|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||Minnesota at Tampa Bay||Kenny Albert and Ron Pitts|
|November 6, 1994||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Chicago at Tampa Bay||Joe Buck and Tim Green|
|Detroit vs. Green Bay (at Milwaukee)||Thom Brennaman and Anthony Muñoz|
|New Orleans at Minnesota||Kevin Harlan and Jerry Glanville|
|San Francisco at Washington||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||Arizona at Philadelphia||Dick Stockton, Matt Millen and Kevin Frazier|
|November 13, 1994 (doubleheader)||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Arizona at N.Y. Giants||Joe Buck and Tim Green|
|Atlanta at New Orleans||Thom Brennaman and Anthony Muñoz|
|Chicago at Miami||Dick Stockton, Matt Millen and Ron Pitts|
|Minnesota at New England||Kevin Harlan and Jerry Glanville|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||Dallas at San Francisco||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|November 20, 1994 (doubleheader)||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Detroit at Chicago||Kevin Harlan and Jerry Glanville|
|Green Bay at Buffalo||Joe Buck and Tim Green|
|Washington at Dallas||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||Atlanta at Denver||Thom Brennaman and Anthony Muñoz|
|New Orleans at L.A. Raiders||Kenny Albert and Ron Pitts|
|Philadelphia at Arizona||Dick Stockton and Matt Millen|
|Tampa Bay at Seattle||Mike Breen and Merril Hoge|
|November 24, 1994||4:00 p.m. Eastern||Green Bay at Dallas||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|November 27, 1994||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Philadelphia at Atlanta||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|Tampa Bay at Minnesota||Thom Brennaman and Anthony Muñoz|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||Chicago at Arizona||Kevin Harlan and Jerry Glanville|
|L.A. Rams at San Diego||Dick Stockton and Matt Millen|
|N.Y. Giants at Washington||Joe Buck and Tim Green|
|December 4, 1994 (doubleheader)||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Dallas at Philadelphia||Dick Stockton, Matt Millen and Eric Clemons|
|Washington at Tampa Bay||Steve Buckhantz and Merril Hoge|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||Arizona at Houston||Thom Brennaman and Anthony Muñoz|
|Atlanta at San Francisco||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|Green Bay at Detroit||Joe Buck and Tim Green|
|New Orleans at L.A. Rams||Kenny Albert and Ron Pitts|
|N.Y. Giants at Cleveland||Kevin Harlan and Jerry Glanville|
|December 10, 1994||12:30 p.m. Eastern||Detroit at N.Y. Jets||Dick Stockton and Matt Millen|
|December 11, 1994 (doubleheader)||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Chicago at Green Bay||Joe Buck, Tim Green and Dan Jiggetts|
|L.A. Rams at Tampa Bay||Eric Clemons and Merril Hoge|
|Minnesota at Buffalo||Thom Brennaman, Anthony Muñoz and Kevin Frazier|
|Philadelphia at Pittsburgh||Kevin Harlan and Jerry Glanville|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||San Francisco at San Diego||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|Washington at Arizona||Kenny Albert and Ron Pitts|
|December 17, 1994||12:30 p.m. Eastern||Minnesota at Detroit||Dick Stockton and Matt Millen|
|December 18, 1994||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Atlanta vs. Green Bay (at Milwaukee)||Joe Buck and Tim Green|
|L.A. Rams at Chicago||Kevin Harlan, Jerry Glanville and Kevin Frazier|
|Tampa Bay at Washington||Thom Brennaman and Anthony Muñoz|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|December 24, 1994||1:00 p.m. Eastern||Arizona at Atlanta||Dick Stockton and Matt Millen|
|Dallas at N.Y. Giants||Pat Summerall and John Madden|
|Green Bay at Tampa Bay||Kenny Albert and Ron Pitts|
|Philadelphia at Cincinnati||Thom Brennaman and Anthony Muñoz|
|4:00 p.m. Eastern||New Orleans at Denver||Joe Buck and Tim Green|
|Washington at L.A. Rams||Kevin Harlan and Jerry Glanville|
|January 1, 1995 (NFC Wild Card Playoff)||4:00 p.m. Eastern||Chicago at Minnesota||Pat Summerall, John Madden, Matt Millen and Anthony Muñoz|
|January 7, 1995 (NFC Divisional Playoff)||4:00 p.m. Eastern||Chicago at San Francisco||Dick Stockton, Matt Millen and Tim Green|
|January 8, 1995 (NFC Divisional Playoff)||12:30 p.m. Eastern||Green Bay at Dallas||Pat Summerall, John Madden and Matt Millen|
|January 15, 1995 (NFC Championship Game)||4:00 p.m. Eastern||Dallas at San Francisco||Pat Summerall, John Madden and Matt Millen|
The iconic NFL on Fox theme music was composed by Scott Schreer; at the time of its introduction, Schreer considered the theme to be a contrast to other television sports themes, as it carried a dark, orchestral, and cinematic sound. The music was partially inspired by the opening theme of Tim Burton's 1989 Batman film; Fox Sports president David Hill had heard the theme while waiting in line for a Batman ride at an amusement park in California, and suggested to creative director George Greenberg (who had recently defected to Fox from ABC Sports) in a phone call that the overlying theme for Fox's NFL theme music should be "Batman plays football". Greenberg would enlist Schreer to compose the theme, describing Hill's request as sounding like "Batman on steroids". Schreer and his team pitched three separate songs to Greenberg and Hill, who then spliced them together into one for the final version.
Beginning at the 2010 National League Championship Series, the NFL on Fox theme became the official theme music for all Fox Sports broadcasts, regardless of sport. In particular, current Fox Sports president Eric Shanks believed that the special theme music it had previously used for post-season baseball was not upbeat enough, and that the change would "[give] all of our sports sort of that marquee feel and it gives us a more upbeat way to come on the air." The change also resulted in the removal of the long-time Major League Baseball on Fox theme (also composed by Schreer).
In December 2010, Fox experimented with using an in-game soundtrack during a regional game between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers. The following week on December 16, Fox publicly announced that it would also feature it during a game on December 20 between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Fox Sports president Eric Shanks revealed that CSI: Miami composer Jeff Cardoni had contributed music for the experiment, and saw potential in the concept, explaining that "just like music in movies, you have to use it at the right times. And imagine trying to score a movie the first time you're seeing it." The concept was met with mixed reaction; sports blogger Michael David Smith believed that the music was too distracting from the game itself, added nothing to the game, and sounded "goofy".
Digital on-screen graphics
When its NFL telecasts debuted in the 1994 season, Fox's coverage featured the first "scoring bug." Originally appearing as a transparent white half-capsule-shaped graphic in the upper left corner of the screen, it displayed the score and game clock throughout the entire telecast, a first for an NFL television broadcast.
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. The basic design of the scoring bug, which was named the "FoxBox," mimicked the version used on Fox's MLB coverage. For Fox's coverage of Super Bowl XXXIII at the end of the 1998 season, the starting lineups were shown using a virtual television. To television viewers, the effect appeared as if the end zone opened up and a giant television screen rose from the ground. The virtual television display showed video announcing the starting lineups. The virtual television effect was provided by PVI Virtual Media Services using its L-VIS virtual graphics system.
In 2001, Fox implemented a new graphics package for its NFL telecasts. It was an updated version of the 1998 design, but the graphic changed from a compact 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 translucent area spanned the top of the screen from left to right, displaying the abbreviations of both teams in white. The scores were 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 NFL on Fox logo was on the far right. First seen during Super Bowl XXXVI and used full-time for the 2002 season, the white scoring boxes were re-colored to yellow. This was also the last year that the score graphic used an effect in which a team's initials flashed in its two primary colors accompanied by percussive sound beats when that team scored (for example, when the Green Bay Packers scored a touchdown during a Fox telecast, 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 black 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 removed and the team abbreviations were rendered again in white lettering in the team's main color. The banner returned to a large black rectangle at the start of the 2004 season. With the team logos returning, this time looking more "three-dimensional" in appearance and with their respective abbreviations beside the logos, an 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 shown in red whenever the team challenges a play. In addition 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. First seen on Fox's Major League Baseball postseason broadcasts that year, this time, they were rendered in electronic lettering in the team's main color. When team-specific information was displayed in the banner, such as the hang time of a punt or a touchdown, the abbreviation would revert to the team's logo. During the 2005 holiday season, for the Week 15 Saturday game (between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots), a new white banner, resembling a chrome finish (first introduced at the start of Fox's coverage of the 2005 World Series) debuted, with animated snow accumulating on top with an animated snowplow periodically clearing the snow from the screen. 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 began featuring 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 days other than the network's traditional game broadcst days or holidays (such as the Thanksgiving Day AFC/NFC game), the scoring bar instead shows either the NFL Thanksgiving logo, the NFL Divisional Playoffs/NFC Championship logo, or a special banner with a message from Fox Sports observing whichever holiday falls during that week (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 CBS, NBC, NFL Network (for its Run to the Playoffs game telecasts) and (beginning with the 2008 season) ESPN. At the same time, the down/yardage information is also displayed on the scoring banner, resulting in duplicate presentation of the same information. The bar was also enhanced for high definition and is thinner than previous versions, with little translucency. The NFL on Fox logo was also repositioned to the far left instead of the far right. During high definition 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 four illuminating buttons (the number of buttons that were lit indicated the quarter being played), but due to difficulties in visibility, the quarter returned to being numerically represented for the regular season. On the 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 that is currently in possession as well as text indicating where the ball is (e.g., Arizona-Own 41 Yard Line).
Beginning on November 15, 2009 (Week 11 of the 2009 season), scores from other ongoing NFL games that appear on the right side of the banner would have an arrow indicating which team was in possession of the ball; a red arrow indicated that the team is at the redzone. Fox's NFL telecasts were the only major telecasts of the league's games to not feature timeout indicators until the 2010 season, 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 scoring banner and graphics package used by Fox Sports Net (and formerly the main one used by Fox Sports) for its final regular season game of the year, the San Francisco 49ers vs. the Denver Broncos on December 31, 2006, due to a blizzard (the second to occur in the span of a week) hitting Denver, preventing the usual amount of equipment for Fox's NFL coverage to arrive before the game. FSN Rocky Mountain (the FSN network that served the Denver market at the time, since replaced by Root Sports Rocky Mountain) assisted in the production of the game on short notice by providing the graphical production and other production services. In addition, 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.
A new graphics package for Fox's NFL telecasts debuted during an August 19, 2010 pre-season game, as the network began to broadcast its sports programming with graphics optimized for 16:9 displays rather than the 4:3 safe area, resulting in the network asking cable and satellite providers to comply and use the #10 Active Format Description code to send out over Fox programming, which displays 16:9 content in a letterboxed format on 4:3 screens (largely on the analog affiliate feed carried by the provider), in concert with Fox News Channel and its related news productions for the Fox network also switching to full widescreen presentation. This was promoted during 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 was also rolled out to other Fox Sports networks in subsequent months. The score banner previously used was replaced by an unconventional FoxBox-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 upward. 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 also 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 is in possession of the ball. Additionally, the scoreboard next to the Fox Sports bug for other ongoing NFL games was replaced by a traditional ticker; the bug was made slightly smaller and rounder as well. Special holiday animations also appeared with the banner package; digitally animated leaves fell on top of the FoxBox on Thanksgiving, while falling snow piles on top during the last two weeks of December in observance of the Christmas and holiday season, with the timeout indicators being changed in the latter instance to resemble strings of Christmas lights.
After two years of using the unconventional layout, for 2012, a more traditional FoxBox was introduced; team abbreviations (in the team's primary color) are stacked on the left side of the box, 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 the 2012 season, Fox began providing play-by-play commentary of all games in Spanish on its second audio program channel. In 2013, in observance of the holiday season, Christmas lights returned to the FoxBox along the sides of the graphic, but they no longer correspond to timeouts. When a team scores, calls a timeout or gets called on a penalty, the lights change from red, green and blue to the corresponding team's color for the duration of the graphic, before returning to the normal colors.
For the 2014 season, the graphics were changed to match those that had previously been introduced on Fox Sports' Major League Baseball and NASCAR coverage. The graphics package itself is similar to the previous look, however with a more boxy appearance, and the fonts used are rounder and have less of an athletic appearance than previous packages used by Fox. The layout of the score box is essentially a mirror image of the already-introduced MLB graphic, except that the NFL version is on the top-left of the screen, while the baseball version is on the bottom-left. Like the MLB graphic, the box has two components: a main box and a dynamic strip. The main box contains the team abbreviations, stacked on top of the team scores. The possession indicator is a line above the team holding the ball; timeout indicators, which are counting downward, are stacked next to the scores. This unconventional layout of displaying the scores (also used in 2010 and 2011) is only used for NFL coverage; college football and MLB coverage use the traditional layout with the team abbreviations to the left of the scores.
The dynamic strip normally shows the next down that will occur, such as "3rd Down". It changes to show down and distance and the play clock, and turns yellow if a flag is thrown. When a score occurs, the dynamic strip disappears and the main box changes to show the logo of the team scoring, along with the type of score. For a penalty, the main box shows the logo of the offending team, while the dynamic strip turns yellow and displays the type of penalty. When a timeout is called, the dynamic strip turns to the color of the team taking the timeout and displays "Timeout," while the main box displays the team's logo over a neutral gray background. After a few seconds, the main box returns to the scores and a small gray box with the team logo appears next to the team logo in the dynamic strip.
For a review or a challenge, the dynamic strip moves from the bottom to the right side of the main box and turns red, displaying whether it is a challenge, an official review, or a scoring review. When the decision is announced, the strip expands to show the result of the review on a yellow background. After a few seconds, the strip shifts back to the bottom of the main box and if a timeout is charged on a lost challenge, the strip shows the team charged with the timeout.
Fox NFL Sunday had been the ratings leader among network pregame coverage from its debut in 1994 (as it was the only network pregame show at the time to air for one hour prior to kickoff). However, in 2006, NFL Sunday was overtaken in the ratings by CBS' The NFL Today. The swing in ratings dominance was said to be correlated with the move of original Fox NFL Sunday host James Brown back to CBS, where he had been serving as a play-by-play broadcaster before his jump to Fox in 1994.
The network's NFL game telecasts have generally posted strong viewership. For the 2009 season, in particular, the network's NFL games scored an average rating of 16.827 million viewers. On October 13, 2013, the late-afternoon regional broadcasts between the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots and the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers earned a 15.8 household rating share and an average of 26.736 million total viewers.
Fox's telecast of Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008, between the New York Giants and New England Patriots, was the second-highest rated Super Bowl telecast ever, with 97.5 million viewers watching the broadcast. It was also the second-most-watched program in television history, behind the series finale of M*A*S*H in 1983. 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 U.S. audience of 111 million viewers, Fox's February 6, 2011 telecast of 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 set the year prior for Super Bowl XLIV. The game drew an estimated 162.9 million total viewers that watched all or part of the game, and a national household rating of 46.0 and a 69 share. It drew a 59.7 local rating in both Milwaukee (on WITI) and Pittsburgh (on WPGH-TV), the second-highest local rating for a Super Bowl after the 63.0 that Super Bowl XX drew in the Chicago market. In the host market of Dallas-Fort Worth (on Fox owned-and-operated station KDFW), the game drew a 53.7 rating.
Criticism and controversies
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 which read "FUCK DA EAGLES" in Saints colors. Three days after the broadcast, the network apologized for the incident. The Saints fan, Heather Rothstein, was contacted by Maxim and was given a photo shoot that appeared in the men's magazine.
During the 2006 NFC Championship between the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field, in a shot taken from the overhead camera angle of the crowd, three Bears fans were seen giving an obscene gesture towards the field.
Mike Goldberg suspension
On October 14, 2014, Mike Goldberg (who mainly serves as an announcer for the network's Ultimate Fighting Championship coverage) voluntarily pulled himself from commentating duties for the October 19 Minnesota Vikings-Buffalo Bills game telecast, after engaging in a series of arguments, some laced with profanities, with various Twitter users. The impetus of Goldberg's response was the heavy criticism that he received on social media for committing verbal gaffes and other issues – including misidentifying and mispronouncing names of players and coaches from both teams – after commentating the October 12 game between the Vikings and Detroit Lions, which was the first time that Goldberg had called an NFL game for Fox.
A spokesperson for Fox Sports said that Goldberg "was quick to apologize for this unfortunate and regrettable situation and understands he made a mistake" and would not call any NFL games for the network for the remainder of the 2014 season, as he was originally scheduled to conduct only those two games. Goldberg tweeted that the decision was mutually agreed upon between him and Fox Sports management, stating that he did not want to be "a distraction on the upcoming broadcast".
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