13 Great Innovations in Sports Broadcasting

With most sport being played behind closed doors at the moment, TV sport has had to get innovative with the use of fake crowd noise, cardboard cutouts in the crowd, virtual fan walls via Zoom and far more close-ups of the players to avoid shots of empty seats.

There has been plenty of radical, left-field, ridiculous and sometimes just plain common sense innovations we’ve seen from watching sport on the box over the years and we celebrate them in this blog.

(1) Actually Showing The Score During the Broadcast

Did you notice the lack of scoreboard when watching classic replays while all sport was put on hold?

There wasn’t any scoreboard or timeclock during the actual games until the mid-1990s when NBC in the US used it as part of their Major League Baseball coverage followed by FOX with the NFL.

Australian networks didn’t bother putting the score that didn’t leave the screen until Nine implemented it in 1995 with their Rugby League coverage.

Seven added it as late as 1997 in their AFL broadcasts.

How was this not a thing beforehand?

 

(2) Video Refs

Since it was introduced in Cricket and Rugby League, the video ref has always had questionable technology and only works when in favour of your respective team.

These days it has fancy names like “The Bunker”, “The ARC” and “VAR”

It’s ruined Grand Finals, resulted in on-air blow-ups from commentators and seen some great product placement to remind us that KFC has 24 chicken nuggets for $10

(3) Live Telecasts 

Being able to watch your team live on TV wherever, whenever is only a new thing.

As recently as 2011, prime-time AFL and NRL games were broadcast on a delay to make way for shows like Better Homes and Gardens.

While some like to complain that certain sports are being broadcast on a “secondary channel”  the GEMs and 7Mates of the world, the glory days of five FTA channels weren’t so great.

Delayed telecasts, replays with select highlights, leaving vital stages of matches to go to the 6 pm news, AFL/NRL games being broadcast at 11:30 pm in their respective non-code states on the Barrassi line – the list goes on.

Foxtel/Kayo and even Optus Sport (World Cup 2018 excluded) make it easy for us to watch what we want, when we want.

Along with game passes from the NBA, MLB, NHL and NFL – everything is available whenever, wherever.

Showing sport live against the gate on TV was one time a contentious issue in Australia.

It wasn’t until 1977 that the VFL Grand Final was allowed to be shown live into Melbourne, and that was provided the game was a sell-out.

Footy of both codes was mostly delayed with live games as a special treat for a long time.

If you lived in a state hosting Test Match Cricket – you’d only get the last session broadcast.

We’ve never had it so good.

(4) If you Don’t Want To Know The Score, Look Away Now

To hark back to a simpler time where your phone didn’t constantly give you score notifications, no social media and replays of footy games – Channel 7 provided a fine community service.

During half-time of their broadcasts, Seven would check the scores of the other matches being played that day – the host would have the courtesy to remind viewers who had the patience to wait for the replay with these simple words

“If you don’t want to know the score – look away now”

Cue: Right on the Tip of my tongue by Diesel

(5) Classic Catches

It wouldn’t be a summer of Cricket without the Classic Catches competition.

FOX Cricket and Channel 7 have both ensured that the legacy of Classic Catches continues.

Not only is it a celebration of great fielding, it is a great way to exercise your democratic right and win a year’s supply of KFC.

(6) David Hill

When it comes to TV sports production – David Hill is the GOAT.

The legendary producer was Kerry Packer’s man when World Series Cricket hit the scene in 1977 with radical innovations such as having cameras facing the bowler’s arm at both ends, putting a microphone on the pitch and of course – stump cam.

David Hill gave us Daddles the Duck, that’s probably the greatest innovation of the lot.

Hill was poached by Rupert Murdoch in the late 80s to work on his UK and US sports startups and went on to give us more innovations such as the constant score and time graphics, a glowing hockey puck and first-down the line superimposed during NFL broadcasts.

Basically, any innovation in sports broadcasting was probably first thought of from David Hill.

(7) Five Minute Warning

AFL fans remember Channel 10’s stint broadcasting the game from 2002-11 fondly.

Their coverage was innovative, informative and the game was the main attraction – not the commentators.

Ten executives can also lay claim to getting the greatest deal in TV sports broadcasting history when they managed to get every single final and Grand Final, leaving channel 9 with none from 2002-06.

What people remember most from Ten’s coverage was the FIVE MINUTE WARNING.

The time clock would countdown for the first 3 and bit quarters but when there was five minutes left in a game – the count would then count up and viewers wouldn’t know how much time remained.

The five-minute warning was a health risk – especially during those epic Grand Finals between Sydney and West Coast in 2005 and 2006 but it was bloody brilliant.

Bring it back!

 

(8) Tony Greig’s Pitch Report & Weatherwall

Generations of Cricket fans lived by the late Tony Greig’s pitch reports.

To this day, people still try to replicate it but nothing will match the genius of Tony Greig putting his key in the pitch.

Greig persisted with a key for years until he lost his hotel room key deep in the WACA’s wicket.

He replaced it with a Biro pen later on.

Along with the pitch report, Greig would add the innovation of the weatherwall giving viewers that extra insight into the conditions the players would face that day along with the famous “Player comfort meter” which the 12th man milked for all it was worth.

(9) Peter McKenna “The Sharp Shooter”

It was clear that Peter McKenna was in the doghouse at Channel 7.

Some genius producer thought that McKenna was best served not in the commentary box but sitting up with in the bleaches of the Great Southern Stand at the MCG with the general public to give some perspective on goalkicking.

McKenna looked absolutely delighted to be sitting there as well.

(10) World Record Line

Introduced in time for Swimming at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, the World Record line was basically a virtual line that went in the same speed of the current world record and you could see the athletes try to beat it.

It was best implemented by Roy and HG on The Dream when commentating Eric “the Eel” Moussambani trying to break the Equatorial Guinea record in his infamous 100-meter freestyle trial.

(11) Hawkeye

Now used everywhere, Hawkeye first came to our attention during the Australian summer of Tennis.

Players were able to dispute line calls using Hawkeye in the 2006 Hopman Cup in Perth.

The 2007 Australian Open was the first Grand Slam to introduce Hawkeye – but only for matches at Rod Laver Arena and players were granted two incorrect challenges per set and one additional challenge should a tie-breaker be played.

It’s now the norm, but it wasn’t that long ago that it was a luxury.

 

(12) Spider Cam

Channel 9 introduced Spider Cam to their Rugby League coverage in 2013.

It basically takes fans directly above scrums and gives fancy views.

Spider Cam is also the norm in Test Cricket broadcasts.

Nine also used a different version back in the mid-2000s called “Sky Cam.”

It’s basically a fancy toy to show-off in broadcasts every now and then

(13) Brett Kirk and the Saturday Afternoon Team.

This needs no explanation. Just watch.