When the 84th MLB All-Star game airs on Fox Tuesday, July 16, from NY’s Citi Field, it will be the network’s 15th broadcast. It’s also the 15th game called by play-by-play announcer Joe Buck and broadcaster Tim McCarver, who will make this season—his 22nd—his last as both an analyst for the All-Star Game and lead MLB on Fox.
Fox has upped the game’s production value this year with advanced, high-speed cameras, hyper-motion cams, super-sensitive sound mics, and more. Highlights include three Phantom Cameras, which shoot 3,000-5,000 frames-per-second, two hyper-motion “X-MO” cameras, shooting up to 500 frames-per-second and a “Super-Mo” camera, at up to 180 frames-per-second. All will catch the action along the base lines. An additional 25 high-def cameras, including a “diamond cam” at home plate facing the batter and catcher, will add to the game’s visuals. Player pointer graphics, four mobile production units and 80 field and crowd mics—capturing bats cracking and dugout chatter—will enhance the viewer experience further.
“We’re very excited to be using the Phantoms that we used in post-season last year,” said John Entz, evp, production for Fox Sports on a conference call for press Thursday. “We’re expecting to get some phenomenal shots from those.” Asked how the enhanced production elements have altered covering games over the years, Tim McCarver responded, “it’s certainly changed.” Today, it’s about “how the game is heard as much as how the game is seen,” he said, attributing Fox with introducing this development to the coverage of Major League Baseball over the past 18 years.
Analyst Joe Buck agreed that bringing sound into the game has enhanced the fan’s experience. Major League Baseball has been good to them by giving the analysts “more and more access,” he said. The goal is to give the viewer a home experience that they’ve never had, and “I think audio is a big way to do that” and can attract more people to the sport, he said.
But is it working? Addressing ratings declines in recent years, Eric Shanks, Fox Sports Media Group co-president said it’s important to “take a look at your total viewership…Across all of entertainment, it’s not just sports, the chunks of times people have to spend with something is less,” he said, attributing fragmentation in part to the proliferation of new devices in the marketplace. “You’re seeing a definite amount of sampling,” he said. “But during tight games, you’re seeing the audience absolutely increase. The All-Star Game, in the context of all entertainment… it’s still the jewel of the summer…You have to take a look at everything in context…If the game is good, people are going to stay with it.”