Major League Baseball on FOX
|Major League Baseball on Fox|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||3+ hours|
|Production companies||Fox Sports|
Fox Sports Networks
Fox Sports 1
|Picture format||16:9 720p HDTV|
|Original run||June 1, 1996– present|
Major League Baseball on Fox or MLB on Fox is the Fox Broadcasting Company's presentation of Major League Baseball games, produced by Fox Sports. Major League Baseball on Fox began on June 1, 1996 and will continue at least through 2021 with national broadcasts on Fox and Fox Sports 1.
- 1 History
- 2 Scheduling
- 2.1 Fox Saturday Baseball Game of the Week
- 2.2 Fox Sports Networks, Fox Family and FX's coverage
- 2.3 Postseason coverage
- 2.4 Special coverage
- 2.5 Other MLB related programming
- 2.6 Major League Baseball coverage on Fox's owned and operated television stations
- 3 Commentators and studio personalities
- 4 Production overview
- 5 Criticism
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Early years: 1996–2000
Major League Baseball made a deal with Fox and NBC on November 7, 1995. Fox paid a fraction less of the amount of money that CBS had paid for the Major League Baseball television rights for the 1990–1993 seasons. Unlike the previous television deal, "The Baseball Network", Fox reverted to the format of televising regular season games (approximately 16 weekly telecasts that normally began on Memorial Day weekend) on Saturday afternoons. Fox did however, continue a format that The Baseball Network started by offering games based purely on a viewer's region. Fox's approach has usually been to offer three regionalized telecasts.
When Fox first got into baseball, it used the motto "Same game, new attitude." Fox's primary goal when they first launched baseball was to promote their weak prime time schedule. "We'll use the World Series and League Championship Series to spur our shows", said network sports president Ed Goren.
Like its predecessor NBC, Fox determined its Saturday schedule by who was playing a team from one of the three largest television markets: New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. If there was a game which combined two of these three markets, it would be aired.
In September 2000, Major League Baseball concluded a six year, US$2.5 billion contract with Fox to show Saturday baseball, the All-Star Game, selected Division Series games and exclusive coverage of the League Championship Series and World Series. 90% of the contract's value to Fox, who paid Major League Baseball $417 million per year, came from the postseason, which not only attracted large audiences, but also provided an opportunity for the network to showcase its fall schedule.
The contract protected Major League Baseball in the event of a labor dispute (something that didn't occur with "The Baseball Network" in 1994). If some of the games were cancelled by a strike or lockout, Major League Baseball still got all its money, but had to compensate Fox with additional telecasts. On the other hand, a repeat of the 1994 Major League Baseball strike would've cost Fox well over $1 billion; the television contract created an incentive not to cause a strike, as it would hurt broadcast networks since they paid for the deal, unlike the 1994–95 television package.
Under the previous five-year deal with Major League Baseball, Fox paid $115 million while NBC only paid $80 million per year. Fox paid about $575 million overall while NBC paid about $400 million overall. The difference between the Fox and the NBC contracts implicitly valued Fox's Saturday Game of the Week at less than $90 million for five years. Before NBC officially decided to part ways with Major League Baseball (for the second time in about 12 years) on September 26, 2000, Fox's payment would've been $345 million while NBC would've paid $240 million. Before 1990, NBC had carried Major League Baseball since 1947.
We have notified Major League Baseball that we have passed on their offer and we wish them well going forward.—NBC Sports president Ken Schanzer
Under the new deal, Fox would now pay out an average of $417 million a year, which was about a 45 percent increase from the previous deal (worth $290 million a year) that Fox, NBC, and ESPN contributed together. CBS and ABC reportedly were not interested in buying the rights at the prices Major League Baseball was offering.
When asked about the new deal with Fox, Commissioner Bud Selig said, "We at Major League Baseball could not be happier with the result. They have been a good partner and an innovative producer of our games."
Neal Pilson, who was the president of CBS Sports when the network had the exclusive television rights for Major League Baseball said of Fox's $2.5 billion deal:
Some observers believed that gaining the relative ratings boost from the League Championship Series and World Series meant more to Fox than the other broadcast networks. That was because Fox had the biggest prime time ratings decline of the four major networks during the 1999–2000 season. Its average prime time audience of 8.97 million was down 17 percent from the year before, according to Nielsen Media Research.
New contract: 2007–2013
On July 11, 2006, rumors of the demise of Major League Baseball on Fox were put to rest when it was announced that the network had signed a new seven-year contract, which will guarantee that the World Series will appear on Fox through the 2013 season. Fox had widely been expected to renew the deal, but it was unclear what they would be willing to air beyond the All-Star Game and World Series.
The package was officially announced on October 17, 2006. Under the terms of the arrangement, Fox retains its rights to its regular-season package, which now begins in April, and remains the exclusive home of the All-Star Game and World Series. Fox's postseason coverage beyond the World Series is limited to one League Championship Series per year (the American League Championship Series in odd numbered years and National League Championship Series in even numbered years), which alternates every year with TBS (who took over exclusive rights to the Division Series from ESPN) airing the other LCS.
One of the terms of the deal was that, beginning with the 2007 season, the Saturday Game of the Week coverage was extended over the entire season rather than starting after Memorial Day, with most games being aired in the 3:30–7:00 p.m. (EDT) time slot, changed to 4:00 to 7:00 after Fox cancelled its in-studio pre-game program for the 2009 season. Exceptions were added in 2010 with 3:00 to 7:00 for Saturday afternoons where Fox would broadcast a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in prime time (which starts at 7:30) and 7:00 to 10:00, when Fox broadcasts the UEFA Champions League soccer final (which starts at 3:00).
For 2012, Fox revised its schedule. While the 3:30 p.m. EDT starting time continues, weekly games on Saturday NASCAR race dates in Texas, Richmond, and Darlington, start at 12:30 p.m. EDT. And starting with the UEFA Champions League Final Match Day until the Saturday before the All-Star Break, all Game of the Week games would start at 7 p.m. EDT. The Baseball Night in America moniker was used for all MLB on Fox games in that span.
On September 19, 2012, Sports Business Daily reported that Major League Baseball would agree to separate eight-year television deals with Fox Sports and Turner Sports through the 2021 season. Fox would reportedly pay around $4 billion over eight years (close to $500 million per year) while Turner would pay around $2.8 billion over eight years (more than $300 million per year). Under the new deals reported that Major League Baseball would agree to separate eight-year television deals, Fox and TBS' coverage would essentially be the same as in the 2007–2013 contract with the exception of Fox and TBS splitting coverage of the Division Series, which TBS has broadcast exclusively dating back to 2007. More importantly, Fox would carry some of the games (such as the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week) on its new all-sports channel, Fox Sports 1, which launched on August 17, 2013. Sources also said it was possible that Fox would sell some League Division Series games to MLB Network.
- 12 Saturday afternoon games on Fox (down from 26).
- 40 games on Fox Sports 1; Fox Sports 2 for overflow.
- All Fox Saturday Baseball games will be made available to MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV (subject to local blackout).
- Rights to the All-Star Game.
- Rights to two League Division Series (one game sold to MLB Network, several games aired on Fox Cable).
- Rights to one League Championship Series. Each year, it will alternate leagues with Turner in the postseason so one year it will carry American League postseason games and the next, National League postseason games.
- Rights to the World Series.
- TV Everywhere rights, streaming on computers, mobile and tablet devices.
- Rights to a nightly baseball highlights show.
- Spanish language rights to all games carried on Fox and Fox Cable (Fox Deportes).
- A weekly show produced by MLB Productions.
Fox Saturday Baseball Game of the Week
FOX airs a Game of the Week every Saturday of the season. As previously mentioned, Fox's coverage currently begins at 4 p.m. Eastern time each week, except during the three NASCAR on Fox Saturday night races (games start at 1 p.m. ET; before 2011, the games started at 3:30 p.m.), and the day of the UEFA Champions League soccer finals (7 p.m. ET). An additional prime time game instead of an afternoon aired on June 26, again with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET. Each week from 2009–2011, Chris Rose set the pregame storylines from one of the game sites, followed by game coverage at approximately ten minutes past the hour. This short show replaces a full-scale pregame show that aired at 3:30 p.m. ET from 2007 to 2008, in which host Jeanne Zelasko was joined by a rotating group of studio analysts. This was followed by regional telecasts of up to three games, starting at about 3:55 p.m. ET. Previously, the games had staggered start times of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. ET. Also, games have been aired in high definition since 2007. In 2007, only the primary game was aired in HD, but since 2008, all games have been aired in HD.
Fox has certain rights for afternoon Major League Baseball games on Saturdays, and ESPN has the same rights for night games on Sundays. Local broadcasters cannot show games of in-market teams regardless of whether the game is home or away as long as the game of the local team has a start time or likely end time intruding on Fox or ESPN's national window, unless that network waives its exclusivity. This is to encourage people to watch the ESPN or Fox game. A further enticement comes simply through the fact that Fox offers mostly regional coverage. Currently, local broadcasts are allowed on Saturdays if the game starts before 1:10 p.m. ET or after 7:05 p.m. ET, but at no other time. If a game starts at 6 p.m. ET (both the teams in the state of Florida, the Miami Marlins and the Tampa Bay Rays, have done this occasionally), the local broadcaster must either join the game in progress or air it on tape delay at 7 p.m. ET, the end of the exclusive FOX window. Also, none of the local 1 p.m. telecasts can be rebroadcast outside the market of the participating teams, specifically on MLB Extra Innings, except that Chicago Cubs and White Sox games can be shown on the superstation WGN America.
Usually there are no other games scheduled at these times, except when a team decides not to change the start-time even after Fox drops the game in favor of a better match-up, which they can and often will do on a few weeks notice, particularly after the All-Star Game. ESPN's post-All-Star Game schedule is likewise picked as little as two weeks ahead of time (schedules for the first half of the season are usually set during the winter). Other teams simply schedule games for other time-slots, particularly on Saturday nights or on Sunday afternoons. Also, the Texas Rangers often play summertime home games at night on Sundays because of the extreme heat common to Texas during much of the season, and normally receive special permission from ESPN to televise these games locally (their opponent's TV partner can also show the game). The Toronto Blue Jays sometimes have home games that conflict with Fox's Saturday afternoon telecasts, as Canada is not subject to Fox's exclusivity. Unlike ESPN, Fox does not normally permit the visiting U.S.-based team to televise the game live in its regional market.
Fox is allowed to show each team up to nine times during the regular season.
Fox Sports Networks, Fox Family and FX's coverage
For the 2000 and 2001 seasons, the Fox Broadcasting Company's then-sister network, Fox Family was home to a weekly Thursday night Major League Baseball game (a game that had previously aired nationwide on FSN from 1997–1999), as well as select games in the Division Series round of playoffs. Among the noteworthy games that aired on Fox Family was the San Francisco Giants at the Houston Astros on October 4, 2001. That night, Barry Bonds hit his 70th home run of the season, which tied the all-time single season record that Mark McGwire had set only three years earlier. (Bonds broke the record the next night.)
As part of its purchase of Fox Family, in addition to the Thursday night game, Disney acquired the MLB rights that were also held by FX. Those two game packages were moved to ESPN beginning with the next baseball season, but the playoff games remained on ABC Family for one additional year due to contractual issues. A deal was made to move those playoff games to ESPN, who produced the games for ABC Family, starting with the 2003 season. Although the games aired on Disney networks, Fox kept the exclusive negotiation to renew the contract after the 2006 season. Fox chose not to renew their rights to the Division Series, which (as previously mentioned) went to TBS as part of its new baseball contract.
Meanwhile, the Fox Broadcasting Company's other sister network FX, aired numerous Major League Baseball contests on Saturday nights in 2001, including Cal Ripken, Jr.'s final game at Camden Yards. FX also aired one game in the Major League Baseball postseason each year from 2001 to 2005, on the first Wednesday night of League Championship Series week when MLB scheduled two games at the same time. On that night, Fox distributed one game to local affiliates based on a regional coverage map, and the other game aired on the corresponding cable affiliate of FX, the main DIRECTV or Dish Network channel, or an alternate channel on the satellite services.
With a new MLB TV contract signed, again excluding FX, the last such broadcast was scheduled for October 11, 2006, but that night's NLCS game between the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets was rained out, making the Detroit Tigers–Oakland Athletics game in the ALCS a national broadcast; FX aired the movie Any Given Sunday instead. Both series were played on October 13, but Fox showed both games, with the ALCS during the day and the NLCS at night.
Since the network bought the rights to postseason baseball coverage, Fox has received criticism from non-baseball fans for not airing first-run original programming during October. (Baseball fans point out that there are plenty of other broadcast and cable networks available on every TV package that do show original scripted programming.) For the majority of the years that Fox has aired baseball, the network started the season for The Simpsons and other shows in November, although a few shows begin in August or September and then go on hiatus until after the World Series. In 2005, Fox started its season in September, took October off to show the Major League Baseball playoffs, and resumed non-baseball programming in November. Both approaches have drawn criticism, indicating that there may not be a perfect way to accommodate both sports and regular programming.
In the first year of its six year, exclusive contract (2001), Fox did a split-telecast (not seen of since the days of the ill-fated "Baseball Network") for the League Championship Series. This meant that two games were played simultaneously on the same night, with one game airing on the Fox network and the other on the local regional FSN cable channel (depending on market, as some markets had no regional sports network with a relationship to FSN). The rationale behind the split-telecast was that because of the September 11 attacks, the whole post-season schedule was pushed back a week. Because of this, two Sunday LCS games came in conflict with an NFL on Fox doubleheader. The fans and sports media reporters were unimpressed with the situation and MLB commissioner Bud Selig vowed it was a one-time deal necessitated by circumstance. However, in later years Fox used split telecasts on a few occasions to keep the playoffs "on schedule" and maximize its prime time advertising revenue, and aired the second game on FX (as previously mentioned), which has virtually national cable/satellite coverage. This ensured that Fox did not have to air an LCS game on a weekday afternoon, when many viewers are unable to watch. The 2007–2013 contract eliminates this, as TBS (as previously mentioned) will have one of the League Championship Series each year. However, Fox has continued to air LCS games during the afternoon on weekdays through the entire length of the contract, and will presumably continue to do so in the 2014 contract based on the fact that LCS coverage will not change.
Since its baseball coverage began in 1996, Fox has aired three regular season games on days other than Saturday. As part of its coverage of Mark McGwire's bid to break Roger Maris's single-season home run record in 1998, Fox aired a Sunday afternoon Cincinnati Reds/St. Louis Cardinals game on September 6 and a Tuesday night Chicago Cubs/St. Louis Cardinals game on September 8 of that year. (McGwire hit his record-breaking 62nd home run of the season in the latter game, which got a 14.5 rating for Fox and remains the network's highest-rated regular season Major League Baseball telecast.) On April 16, 2004, the network aired a Friday night game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox to cover those teams' first head-to-head meeting since the memorable 2003 ALCS.
For a Saturday afternoon telecast of a Los Angeles Dodgers/Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field on August 26, 2000, Fox aired a special "Turn Back the Clock" broadcast to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the first televised baseball game. The broadcast started with a re-creation of the television technology of 1939, with play-by-play announcer Joe Buck working alone with a single microphone, a single black-and-white camera, and no graphics; then, each subsequent half-inning would see the broadcast "jump ahead in time" to a later era, showing the evolving technologies and presentation of network baseball coverage through the years.
Saturday baseball games on Fox have regularly been preceded by a youth-targeted baseball-oriented show. From 1996 to 1999, Fox aired In the Zone. From 2000-2011, Fox aired This Week in Baseball (TWIB), which had previously been in syndication from 1977 to 1998. Both programs were designated as E/I by Fox to help affiliates comply with Federal Communications Commission mandated educational programing regulations.
Starting in 2012, Fox aired a new program titled MLB Player Poll. Hosted by Brady Anderson, the show features players and fans talking about current MLB-related topics and participating in opinion polls about the sport/players of baseball.
Major League Baseball coverage on Fox's owned and operated television stations
|Boston Red Sox||WFXT 25||2000–2002|
|Chicago White Sox||WFLD 32||1968–1972; 1982–1989|
|Detroit Tigers||WJBK 2||1953–1977; 2007|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||KTTV 11||1958–1992|
|New York Yankees||WNYW 5||1999–2001|
Owned and operated Fox Sports Networks affiliates
|Name||Region served||Home to||Former Name||Year Joined/ Launched||Notes|
|Fox Sports Arizona|| Arizona
| Phoenix Suns (NBA)
Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB)
Phoenix Coyotes (NHL)
Phoenix Mercury (WNBA)
local coverage of the Pacific-12
|Prime Sports Arizona||1996|
|Fox Sports Detroit|| Michigan (statewide)
| Detroit Tigers (MLB)
Detroit Pistons (NBA)
Detroit Red Wings (NHL)
|None||1997||Tigers Live, Red Wings Live, and Pistons Live are produced by FS Detroit. Fox Sports Net Detroit put PASS Sports, which was owned by Post-Newsweek/WDIV-TV, out of business in 1997 when Fox acquired the TV rights to all of the pro sports teams in Detroit.|
|Fox Sports Florida|| Florida (statewide)
| Tampa Bay Rays (MLB)
Orlando Magic (NBA)
Miami Marlins (MLB)
Florida Panthers (NHL)
|SportsChannel Florida||2000||Shares broadcast rights with co-owned Sun Sports. Last FSN network to discontinue the SportsChannel name.|
|Fox Sports Kansas City||Kansas City||Kansas City Royals (MLB)||Formerly part of FSN Midwest; Was Prime Sports Network prior to that||2008||FSN Kansas City became a channel after Royals Sports Television Network was shut down and FSN signed a long-term deal for the Kansas City Royals. Having 2 networks eliminates conflicts with St. Louis Cardinals coverage on FSN Midwest. Some programming is produced by FSN Midwest.|
|Fox Sports Midwest|| Missouri
| St. Louis Cardinals (MLB)
St. Louis Blues (NHL)
local coverage of the Big 12
local coverage of Conference USA
|Prime Sports Midwest||1996||Fox Sports Midwest also airs Cardinals games in West Tennessee and northern Mississippi. Royals broadcasts returned to FSN Midwest in the Kansas City market beginning in 2008, after Royals Sports Television Network was shut down. A Kansas City spinoff launched when they became the broadcaster of the Kansas City Royals.|
|Fox Sports North|| Minnesota
| Minnesota Twins (MLB)
Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA)
Minnesota Wild (NHL)
Minnesota Swarm (NLL)
Minnesota Lynx (WNBA)
|WCCO II, Wisconsin Sports Network, Midwest Sports Channel||1996||Regional subfeeds for the Minnesota/Dakotas region, and for the state of Wisconsin not included in the Minneapolis–St. Paul market. The Wisconsin feed is operated under Fox Sports Wisconsin as of April 2007 and originates from the Twin Cities also with a Milwaukee production base.|
|Fox Sports Ohio|| Ohio
northwestern Pennsylvania, southwestern New York.
| Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA)
Cincinnati Reds (MLB)
Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL)
Columbus Crew (MLS)
|SportsChannel Ohio||1998||Fox Sports Ohio airs Reds games in Nashville, Tennessee and its surrounding areas, including western North Carolina. Fox Sports Ohio also broadcasts select Cavaliers games on Root Sports Pittsburgh. Separate subfeeds also exist for the Cincinnati and Cleveland markets.|
|Fox Sports San Diego||San Diego||San Diego Padres (MLB)||None||2012||Launched March 2012. 20% owned by Padres.|
|Fox Sports South|| Georgia
| Atlanta Hawks (NBA)
Atlanta Braves (MLB)
|(Original) SportSouth||1996||Purchased Turner South in May 2006; name changed to SportSouth; SportSouth carries the Braves and the Hawks.|
|Fox Sports Southwest|| Texas
| Dallas Mavericks (NBA)
Dallas Stars (NHL)
Texas Rangers (MLB)
FC Dallas (MLS)
San Antonio Spurs (NBA)
San Antonio Silver Stars (WNBA)
|Home Sports Entertainment, Prime Sports Southwest.||1996|
|Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket||Southern and Central California, southern Nevada, and Hawaii.|| Los Angeles Clippers (NBA)
Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (MLB)
Los Angeles Kings (NHL)
Anaheim Ducks (NHL)
Chivas USA (MLS)
local coverage of the Pacific-12 Conference
|(Original) Prime Ticket, Prime Sports West, FSN West 2||1996||Operates two channels, FS West and PRIME TICKET. Fox Sports West lost coverage of the Los Angeles Lakers to Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes when the cable company and the team reached a 20-year broadcast agreement, which begins with the 2012–13 NBA season. The networks have also acquired the rights to the Los Angeles Sparks and the Los Angeles Galaxy from FS West.|
|Fox Sports Wisconsin|| Wisconsin
western Upper Peninsula of Michigan
| Milwaukee Brewers (MLB)
Milwaukee Bucks (NBA)
Wisconsin Badgers hockey
|Fox Sports North||2007||Fox Sports Wisconsin became a channel after FSN became the primary network for the Milwaukee Brewers. It is still a part of Fox Sports North in some markets.|
|Sun Sports||Florida|| Orlando Magic (NBA)
Miami Heat (NBA)
Miami Marlins (MLB)
Tampa Bay Rays (MLB)
Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL)
|Sunshine Network||1996||Originally a Prime Network affiliate, it is now owned by Fox Sports Net.|
|Atlanta Braves (MLB), Atlanta Hawks (NBA), Charlotte Bobcats (NBA), Memphis Grizzlies (NBA), Nashville Predators (NHL).||Turner South||2006||Previously owned by Time-Warner as part of the TBS family, sold to News Corporation (parent company of Fox Sports Net) in 2006. Renamed to SportSouth on October 13, 2006. SportSouth and Fox Sports South aired Atlanta Thrashers games prior to 2011 when the team moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba and became the Winnipeg Jets (which are currently aired on the TSN-Jets channel).|
|SportsTime Ohio||Ohio||Cleveland Indians (MLB)||None||2012||Originally established by the Indians in 2006, purchased by Fox in December 2012.|
|Name||Region served||(Former) Home to||Former names||Year Joined||Other|
|Bay Area||Northern and central California, northwestern Nevada and parts of southern Oregon||San Francisco Giants (MLB), Oakland Athletics (MLB), San Jose Sharks (NHL), Golden State Warriors (NBA), San Jose Stealth (NLL), San Jose Sabercats (AFL) and local coverage of the Pacific-10, West Coast, Mountain West, and Western Athletic conferences.||Pacific Sports Network (PSN), SportsChannel Bay Area, SportsChannel Pacific||1998||In April 2007, Cablevision sold their 60% interest in FSN Bay Area to Comcast. The Network was rebranded as Comcast SportsNet Bay Area on March 31, 2008 and continued to carry select FSN programming until August 2012. Fox Sports retains 25% ownership in the network.|
|Chicago||Northern Illinois, northern Indiana, and eastern Iowa.||Chicago Cubs (MLB), Chicago Bulls (NBA), Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), Chicago Fire (MLS) Chicago Rush, (AFL), Chicago White Sox (MLB), local and national collegiate sports, including those from Fox Sports Detroit.||Sportsvision Chicago, SportsChannel Chicago / Hawkvision, ON TV / Sportsvison||1998||Closed on June 23, 2006. Was the production and origination point of the Chicago, Ohio, and Bay Area Sports Report programs (all 50% owned by Rainbow Sports/Cablevision). Comcast SportsNet Chicago now occupies the former FSN Chicago facility located at 350 North Orléans Street, and airs FSN's national programming. The old Chicago Sports Report set was purchased (and is now used as the main news set) by WREX in Rockford, Illinois. Building current home of the Chicago Sun-Times.|
|Houston|| southern Texas
|Houston Dynamo (MLS)||FSN Southwest||2009||Launched as an opt-out of FS Southwest, gained full feed on January 12, 2009. FS Houston will continue to be the television home of the Houston Astros and the Houston Rockets until 2012, after which both teams will move to Comcast SportsNet Houston.|
Commentators and studio personalities
As of 2013, Joe Buck, son of Hall of Fame St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck, is Fox's lead play-by-play commentator (a role he has had since Fox's debut year with Major League Baseball in 1996). Since 1996, Buck has been teamed with Tim McCarver, although McCarver was considered the main reason behind the firing of Jack Buck from CBS five years earlier (due to poor on-air chemistry between the two) in favor of Sean McDonough. Unlike the team of Jack Buck and McCarver on CBS, Joe Buck and McCarver have fused. According to McCarver, "The play-by-play man [should] explain what and where and analyst answer why and how. [Joe Buck] does both."
During the pre-2001 period, Bob Brenly (who otherwise, typically worked with Thom Brennaman) acted as the third man in the booth with Buck and McCarver during the All-Star Game, League Championship Series and World Series. Buck and McCarver were at the microphone when Brenly led the Arizona Diamondbacks as manager to the 2001 World Series title.
Since Joe Buck was hired to work on The NFL on Fox, following the retirement of lead play-by-play voice Pat Summerall in 2002, Dick Stockton and Kenny Albert have both filled-in for Joe Buck whenever he is unable to work a game.
During the mid-2000s decade, Fox utilized active or former players and managers as "guest analysts" on the network's League Championship Series telecasts. These included Bret Boone (2003 ALCS), Al Leiter (2003 NLCS and 2004 ALCS), Brenly (2004 and 2005 NLCS), Lou Piniella (2005 and 2006 ALCS), and Luis Gonzalez (2006 NLCS). Many fans accuse Fox of choosing announcers biased towards large market teams, citing some of these choices, including Boone, whose brother, Aaron Boone, was playing for the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS games covered by Bret Boone.
The original studio host in 1996 was Chip Caray. Dave Winfield and Steve Lyons were the show's original analysts. Unlike the network's primary broadcast teams, the studio personnel have not had the same longevity. Winfeld left Fox after only one season, and both Caray and Lyons would move to the broadcast booth before leaving the network. From 1999–2000, Keith Olbermann took over the hosting seat from Caray, before being replaced by Jeanne Zelasko, who was promoted from Fox Sports Net's National Sports Report.
According to Keith Olbermann, he was fired from Fox in 2001 after reporting on rumors that Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation owns Fox, was planning on selling the Los Angeles Dodgers. When asked about Olbermann, Murdoch said: "I fired him...He's crazy." News Corp. went on to sell the Dodgers to Frank McCourt in 2004. That year, Olbermann remarked, "Fox Sports was an infant trying to stand [in comparison to ESPN], but on the broadcast side there was no comparison—ESPN was the bush leagues."
As previously mentioned, due to poor ratings and budget concerns (Fox never made money on national ad sales that are seen on Fox NFL Sunday as they were instead, sold by the local affiliates), Fox in 2009, decided to scrap the studio/pregame show altogether (in return, host Jeanne Zelasko and analyst Kevin Kennedy were dropped by Fox altogether—Kennedy has since re-appeared on Fox Sports as a fill in commentator), although it is being used for the League Championship Series. For instance, for Fox's coverage of the 2009 ALCS, Chris Rose (who as previously mentioned, beginning in the 2009 season, became the defacto pregame host, albeit on location from one of Fox's game sites) hosted from Fox's studio in Los Angeles with analysts Eric Karros and Mark Grace. For the 2009 World Series the same host analysts had an onfield studio for the pregame show, and now former Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén was a guest analyst throughout the series. The studio show was also used for the prime time games in 2010. Kevin Millar meanwhile, joined Chris Rose for the Budweiser Pregame Report.
Also as previously mentioned, beginning in 2012, Fox and MLB Network collaborated on a new 30 minute pregame show. Matt Vasgersian is the host, with Harold Reynolds and Kevin Millar serving as analysts (other analysts form MLB Network occasionally appear and/or fill-in as well).
On July 8, 1997, Fox televised its first ever All-Star Game (out of Jacobs Field in Cleveland). For this particular game, Fox introduced "Catcher-Cam" in which a camera was affixed to the catchers' masks in order to provide unique perspectives of the action around home plate. Catcher-Cam soon would become a regular fixture in Fox's baseball broadcasts.
In addition to Catcher-Cam, other innovations (some of which have received more acclaim than others) that Fox has provided for baseball telecasts have been:
- Sennheiser MKE-2 microphones and SK-250 transmitters in the bases.
- Between 12 and 16 microphones throughout the outfield, ranging from Sennheiser MKH-416 shotgun microphones to DPA 4061s with Crystal Partners Big Ear parabolic microphones to Crown Audio PCC160 plate microphones.
- The continuous "FoxBox" graphic, which contained the score, inning and other information in an upper corner of the TV screen. Since 2001, the FoxBox has morphed into a strip across the top of the screen which would later be used by NBC. For baseball broadcasts, it would be turned off when something really important happened (Mark McGwire's record-breaking 62nd home run in 1998, the last out of the World Series, et cetera). Beginning in 2009, the top-screen strip would return to a box in the top left-hand corner of the screen.
- Audio accompanying graphics and sandwiched replays between "whooshes."
- "Mega Slo-Mo" technology.
- Scooter, a 3-D animated talking baseball voiced by Tom Kenny who explained pitch types and mechanics to younger viewers.
- Ball Tracer, a stroboscopic comet tail showing the path of a pitch to the catcher's glove.
- Strike Zone, which shows pitch sequences with strikes in yellow and balls in white. It can put a simulated pane of glass that shatters when a ball goes through the zone.
- The "high home" camera from high behind home plate. Its purpose is that it can trace the arc of a home run and measure the distance the ball traveled. The "high home" camera can also measure a runner's lead off first base while showing in different colors (green, yellow, red) and how far off the base and into pickoff danger a runner is venturing.
- Diamond-Cam, introduced at the 2004 All-Star Game, a camera buried four inches in the ground between the pitcher's mound and home plate to provide field-level views of home plate and the pitcher's mound.
- "Hot Spot", introduced at the 2011 World Series, an infrared camera used to show friction, or when a baseball hits a surface and leaves heat behind. Fox used the technology during a controversial call for the first time in Game 1 of the 2011 World Series, when umpires failed to call a ball that batter Adrián Beltré claimed bounded off his leg. "Hot Spot" showed a patch of heat on Beltre's left shoe, evidence that the ball had in fact hit Beltre and should have been called foul.
Fox executives shelved the ball tracer, strike zone, and high home cam after the prime time game on April 16, 2004, although Scooter was still used until 2006.
In October 2004, Fox started airing all Major League Baseball postseason broadcasts (including the League Championship Series and World Series) in high definition. Fox also started airing the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in HD that year and the following year. Prior to the 2008 season, one of the three regional games the network televises each Saturday was presented in HD. Now, all MLB games Fox televises—including Saturday regional games—are presented in HD.
On September 29, 2010, Fox announced that their plans to use cable-cams for their coverage of the National League Championship Series and World Series. The cable-cams according to Fox, can roam over the field at altitudes ranging from about 12 to 80 feet above ground. They will be able to provide overhead shots of, among other things, "close plays" at bases and "managers talking to their pitchers on the mound."
During some broadcasts, Fox has experienced various technical difficulties. In its broadcast of Game 3 of the 2007 World Series between the Colorado Rockies and Boston Red Sox, for instance, a blackout occurred during the top half of the seventh inning, resulting in the disruption of a key moment in the game.
Digital on-screen graphics
In 1996, Fox used the scoring bug on their MLB telecasts. Within two years, the bug would be expanded to all sportscasts. However, golf wouldn't use them at all, and scoring bugs would phased onto tennis broadcasts. On baseball broadcasts, the bug would be turned off at critical points (e.g. Mark McGwire's 62nd home run in 1998, the final out of the World Series, etc.). It was only the 1996 and 1998 World Series that the network left the bug on for the final out; it wasn't until the bug was upgraded in 1999 that the network turned it off for the final out of the 2000 World Series. This was criticized as the network's purpose was to provide the play rather than the usual information given during that certain at-bat.
For the 2001 season, Fox implemented a new graphics package for its MLB telecasts; this was first seen on NASCAR broadcasts that year. The graphics package was an updated version of the 1999 design but now using a top-screen banner. A simple, transparent black rectangle with a shaded area above it spanned the top of the screen from left to right, displaying the diamond graphic representing the baseball diamond, the abbreviations of both teams in white. The scores would be shown in yellow boxes next to the team. The center showed the inning (a triangle was placed to the left of the inning number to show which half-inning it was: pointing up, top of an inning; pointing down, bottom of an inning), to the right was the number of outs, right of that was the pitch count and the pitch speed (the pitch speed in the same location as the pitch count; pitch speed would appear be in a yellow box). The far right was the MLB on Fox logo. This banner along with the shaded area above it retracted from the top of the screen whenever it turned on or turned off.
Like the scoring bug, this version of the score banner would also be turned off at critical points. Midway in 2003, the banner was slightly changed to mirror that of FSN although Fox retained its own graphics package; it was enlarged, except on All-Star Game and World Series telecasts as well as the April 16, 2004 Yankees-Red Sox game, and made more transparent. During Fox's coverage the 2003 World Series and the 2004 All-Star Game, the logo on the far right would be something else instead than the MLB on Fox logo if the broadcasts were not regular season games (e.g. World Series on Fox, All-Star Game on Fox, etc.)
While Fox upgraded the graphics packages on its other properties, the NFL, NFL Europe, and NASCAR starting with the 2003 NFL Season, baseball telecasts continued to use this on-screen look in 2004 (except during its coverage of that year's postseason) but using elements from a new package debuted for FSN's baseball broadcasts in mid-2003. This banner was also used by FSN for all sports broadcasts from 2001 until the middle of 2005 but using different graphics packages than the one Fox used.
Starting with the 2004 postseason, Fox's baseball broadcasts began using the same graphics package that debuted with NFL broadcasts in 2003. The score banner was changed to match the layout adopted by football coverage at the start of the 2004 season but using team abbreviations instead of their logos. The team abbreviations this time were electronic eggcrate lettering in the team's main color, the shaded area above the score banner was removed, and the scores were shown in white text in black parallelograms. Whenever team-specific information was displayed in the banner such as a run scored or an out, the abbreviation would morph into the team logo; with the run scored being displayed, the team whose run scored would have its abbreviation morph into its logo, and a "strobe light" would flash over the black parallelogram as the score changes. When a home run was displayed in the banner, a split "strobe light" would flash a few times across the banner; then the words "HOME RUN (team)" in the team's color zoom in to the center from both left and right, accompanied by two distorted electric buzzes followed by a futuristic computer sounder; this was the first time a home run was displayed in the banner. When it was turned on, flashing lights spanning the top of the screen with two moving lines on top and bottom would join to morph into the banner; when first formed, the team logos are seen before changing into the abbreviations. When turned off, the banner became just a quick beam of light spanning the top of the screen, which would disappear very quickly.
During the 2005 World Series, a new white banner was introduced, resembling a chrome finish, and the team abbreviations became white letters in the team's main color; the next couple of years, the new banner was adopted for all games.
This banner, unlike the 2001–2004 version wouldn't be turned off at the final out of the World Series, but it was turned off at other critical points (like whenever Alex Rodriguez came to bat, tied with an April record 14 home runs, and when Barry Bonds had 753 home runs).
Beginning with the 2006 NFL season, Fox's other properties, the NFL, NASCAR, BCS, and Formula One, again upgraded their graphics packages (Formula One used a different graphics package than the other three properties), but baseball broadcasts continued to use this on-screen look in 2007.
For the 2008 season, Fox's baseball broadcasts began using the same graphics package adopted for NFL on Fox in 2006. The diamond graphic now appears to the right of the scores, slimmed down to only consist of the main three bases (unlike other implementations which include the home plate). The MLB on Fox logo was moved to the far left. The colored strip across the top of the banner is locked to being blue (instead of being in the colors of the active team), the team abbreviations are no longer in the team's main color, like the 2001–2004 banner, and the shaded area above, which is used for the first time since the 2001–2004 banner was last used, does not contain the animated stripe pattern. They only had the stripe pattern in the player stats graphic.
The team's logo no longer flashes after scoring a run but the background sound of a computer mouse clicking is played with the changing of the score. The banner no longer flashes after a home run. Instead, along with the usual clicking sound, the text "HOME RUN: (team)" on the team color's background clicks in the empty space on the far right, which also includes the count and the out-of-town scores. The same goes for the NFL on Fox scoreboard when a touchdown or a field goal is scored. This banner is very similar to the 2001–2004 score banner since it and the shaded area above retract from the top of the screen whenever turned on or off but in a rather different way. The team names are always abbreviations (for example if the Phillies were playing the Mets the Philadelphia Phillies would be listed as "PHI" and the New York Mets as "NYM"), but the scores aren't shown in yellow boxes. If a team scores, the team letters and score numbers flip while the points are being added. If a team scores on a home run, this happens 5 or 6 seconds after the "HOME RUN" bar pops out.
The ball strike count pops out of the blank area when needed. The bug is turned off for reporting camera angles and for the press box camera. Note that like its predecessor, the bug wasn't turned off for the final out of the World Series.
For the 2009 season, telecasts began using the same graphics package implemented by FSN, with the scoreboard now consisting of a rectangular box in the top-left corner of the 4:3 screen. Along with FSN in observance of the holiday weekend, the baserunner graphic changed to be blue with stars during the Fourth of July weekend and All-Star Game in 2010. Also in July 2010, broadcasts began to be produced in full 16:9 widescreen and letterboxed for standard definition viewers. The score box was moved to be in the top-left corner of the widescreen feed.
Starting with Opening Day of the 2011 MLB season, both Fox Sports Networks and Fox began using the same graphics package adopted for NFL on Fox in 2010, featuring a new horizontal layout with team abbreviations (as opposed to the use of team logos on the NFL version) and scores flanking a display of the inning, diamond, count, outs (represented by three lights), and pitch speed in the center. The new scoreboard can also slide open to reveal statistical information or Home Run notifications.
For the 2012 MLB season, the score box was modified to use cap insignias instead of team abbreviations, and outs were now represented by only two lamps. Beginning with the 2012 NLCS, the score box was modified again to match the new layout adopted by football coverage at the start of the 2012 season; teams and scores reverted to being vertically stacked on the left, the base graphic moved to the right-hand side, pitch speed is displayed below the base graphic (which now displays the pitch count below the diamond after 40 pitches as well), while the count, outs, and inning number moved to a tab below the box. This graphic was also not turned off for the final out of the World Series. In late March 2013, the Fox Sports Networks began using this version just in time for the start of the 2013 MLB season (the previous scoring bug was used for 2013 Spring Training games).
The Major League Baseball on Fox theme music was composed by NJJ Music, who has composed many other Fox Sports themes. It was used for the entire duration of Fox's MLB coverage until the 2010 MLB playoffs (see paragraph below). On the May 12, 2007 telecasts, Fox rolled out a rearranged version of the theme, although the original version was used for some games. In 2009, many FSN affiliates began using the 2007 version, but other affiliates continued to use the original version until the end of the 2010 season.
During the 2007 ALCS, a new theme composed by Jochen Flach was introduced for postseason broadcasts, consisting of a majestic, moderate-slow orchestral piece. This theme would then be used for World Series broadcasts beginning with the 2007 World Series and All-Star Game broadcasts beginning with the 2008 All-Star Game. However, the theme was discontinued altogether starting with the 2010 postseason.
In late 2010, Fox Sports made its NFL theme  the theme for all of its sports properties, including baseball. This was first implemented during Fox's coverage of the NLCS. The Fox Sports Networks continue to use the MLB on Fox theme that was introduced in 2007 for their MLB broadcasts.
Fox Sports has received criticism from sports fans for perceived bias toward teams in certain conferences, especially during the Super Bowl and the World Series, usually the National Football Conference in football (due to the fact that Fox owns the rights to NFC games) and the American League in baseball (especially the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox). Fox rarely shows teams from outside the top-10 media markets during the regular season. Also in recent years, both "O Canada" and the "Star Spangled Banner" were preempted during the All-Star Game for commercials.
In Game 4 of the 1997 American League Championship Series, on a wild pitch with runners dashing around the bases, when umpire Durwood Merrill gestured to where the ball was, color commentator Tim McCarver sarcastically commented that "maybe he was trying to tell himself where the ball is!" Merrill heard about that, took offense to it, and fired back in his autobiography that he was letting the other umpires know that the situation was under control. Meanwhile, when rule questions come up during a broadcast, McCarver frequently will explain the rule, sometimes incorrectly. For example, after a St. Louis Cardinals balk in Game 4 of the 2006 NLCS, McCarver explained, "You have to have 'one thousand one' when coming to a stop, and you have to stop your glove in the same place every time in front of your body," when the rules state that there must be merely a complete discernible stop anywhere in front of the pitcher's body; no certain duration or location is necessary.
McCarver has also been known to make verbal gaffes, particularly with player's names (notably confusing Albert Pujols with the retired Luis Pujols, as well as repeatedly referring to Bronson Arroyo as "Brandon Arroyo" during the 2004 World Series). During the 2009 World Series, he referred to New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter as "Jerek Deter". In 2006, Family Guy lampooned McCarver's broadcasting ability with the quip, "Well, at least he couldn't be any worse than Tim McCarver is at sportscasting." To make matters worse, during the 2011 World Series, Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated argued that McCarver was becoming more and more useless as an analyst. McCarver has in general, been accused of overanalyzing situations, being too verbose, and not allow a game to breathe.Commissioner Bud Selig presented the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award to deceased Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente between the fourth and fifth innings of the 2006 All-Star Game. Clemente's widow, Vera, accepted the award. Fox play-by-play announcer Joe Buck emceed the ceremony. As a result, he called the bottom of the fourth inning from the entrance behind home plate. Buck arguably created a little controversy when after Vera Clemente spoke what many said was a beautiful, moving speech Buck asked the fans, "You guys having fun out here?!" In 2007, Joe Buck was only scheduled to call eight regular season MLB games out of a 26-game schedule for Fox (along with a handful of regional St. Louis Cardinals telecasts on FSN Midwest). In an interview with Richard Sandomir of the New York Times, Buck defended his reduced baseball commitment:
In 2008, Buck drew criticism for comments he made during an appearance on ESPN Radio's The Herd with Colin Cowherd, in which he admitted to spending "barely any" time following sporting events he doesn't broadcast, and facetiously claimed that preferred watching The Bachelorette instead.
If you or the casual fan doesn’t want to consider me the No. 1 baseball announcer at Fox, it's not my concern ... I don’t know why it would matter. I don’t know who had a more tiresome, wall-to-wall schedule than my father, and I know what it's like to be a kid in that situation ... He was gone a lot. He needed to be. I understood it. So did my mom. Because my career has gone the way it's gone, I don’t have to go wall to wall. ...While I’m deathly afraid of overexposure, I’m more afraid of underexposure at home with my wife and girls.
In general, Fox's lead broadcast team of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver has been heavily scrutinized much less criticized over time. During the 2012 National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, Buck and McCarver were accused by the San Francisco media in particular, of being too biased towards the Cardinals.
During their broadcast of Game 3 of the 2006 American League Championship Series, Lou Piniella, who is of Spanish descent, made an analogy involving the luck of finding a wallet, and then briefly used a couple of Spanish phrases. Fox color commentator Steve Lyons responded by saying that Piniella was "hablaing Espanol" – Spanglish for "speaking Spanish" – and added, "I still can't find my wallet. I don't understand him, and I don't want to sit close to him now." On October 13, 2006, Fox fired Lyons for making these remarks, which Fox determined to be racially insensitive. Lyons was replaced for the last game of the series in Detroit by Los Angeles Angels announcer José Mota. Piniella later stated that he thought that Lyons was just "kidding" and that Lyons was, per Piniella's experience, not bigoted. Lyons had previously maligned Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green, who is Jewish, for sitting out a game on Yom Kippur in 2004, saying: "He's not even a practicing Jew. He didn’t marry a Jewish girl. And from what I understand, he never had a bar mitzvah, which is unfortunate because he doesn’t get the money." Lyons was suspended briefly without pay after his remarks, and Fox apologized for Lyons' comments, though Lyons never made an on-air apology.
On July 24, 2012, Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing questioned Fox's need to hire local broadcasters on their national telecasts and therefore, bringing about a perceived sense of favoritism towards one of the participating teams. For example, Billy Ripken, who played for the Baltimore Orioles alongside his Hall of Fame brother Cal, was roundly criticized for his perceived favoritism towards the Orioles while broadcasting an Orioles–Detroit Tigers game (even by actor Jeff Daniels via Twitter) for Fox the previous week. The following week came a Philadelphia Phillies–San Francisco Giants telecast on Fox, which was called by Phillies play-by-play man Tom McCarthy and former Phillies pitcher Mitch Williams. McCarthy and Williams were in particular, singled out for their rather downbeat manner of calling a Matt Cain home run off Cole Hamels in the top of the 3rd. This was contrasted by their more enthusiastic call of Hamels returning the favor with a home run in the bottom half of the inning.
Hosts and field reporters
While covering the 2005 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Detroit's Comerica Park, host Jeanne Zelasko angered many fans for her treatment of legendary broadcaster Ernie Harwell. Many didn't like the way Zelasko abruptly—and in many fans' eyes, awkwardly—cut Harwell off just 17 seconds into a pre-game interview, as Harwell was detailing the accomplishments of famous Tiger Al Kaline. Harwell later said he wasn't offended by Zelasko, and let the matter drop. In September 2008, Zelasko took heat for referring to the Tampa Bay Rays as the "Tampa Rays".
Chris Rose has been criticized for appearing to be too chummy with players he has interviewed during Fox's baseball coverage. For example during the 2009 World Series, Rose referred to Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees as "Jeets". One year later during the World Series, Rose referred to both Brian Wilson and Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants as "his friends".
Field reporter Erin Andrews' performance has been criticized since she joined Fox Sports' MLB coverage in 2012. For example, Andrews during trophy presentations, has been accused of showing an extreme lack of knowledge by reading off notes. More to the point, during the trophy presentation at the end of the 2013 American League Championship Series, Andrews misidentified former Anaheim Angels owner and honorary American League president Jackie Autry as her late husband Gene. Also, Andrews' questions seemed to come off awkward as she otherwise, really did not add anything to the telecasts.
Scooter debuted in the 2004 baseball season on April 16, during a game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. While Fox Sports television chairman David Hill called Scooter "really cute and really terrific", the character has garnered few positive reactions otherwise, with Sports Illustrated writer John Donovan warning "purists everywhere, grab the barf bag," and Sports Illustrated media writer Richard Deitsch using Scooter as an example of "how technology does not always help society." The Sporting News reported polling their staff with the question "What best summarizes your feelings for Scooter, Fox's talking baseball?", and 45% of responders chose the answer "Send him to a slow, painful death." Despite most reactions, Scooter would still be used in televised baseball games until after the 2006 World Series.
Beginning with the 2010 MLB playoffs, Fox has used its NFL theme music for its MLB coverage (and all other Fox Sports properties, including NASCAR and UFC events). There has been backlash from fans who believe that the NFL theme does not belong on MLB coverage, and that the past MLB theme should return. 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 11% 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. First and foremost, a campaign has been started to bring the MLB theme back to Fox baseball broadcasts. Another one has been started as well to bring the original NASCAR theme (the one used from 2001–2007) back to Fox NASCAR coverage. A FB page called "The Fox Sports Theme Music Restoration Project" has also been launched, while the other group has been started to remove Eric Shanks (who is responsible for this decision) as President of Fox Sports.
As previously mentioned, in July 2010, the on-screen graphics were repositioned for the 16:9 aspect ratio, as all HDTV programming from the Fox network will be presented in letterbox using an Active Format Description code for standard definition viewers. The supposed high-definition picture however has been derided as really coming across as a muddy mess, lacking the detail and clarity normally expected from a high-def broadcast.
During the 2012 National League Championship Series, Fox's camera angles were criticized for being directly in-line with home plate, thus often ensuring that a pitcher's head blocked the view.
During the bottom of the 9th in Game 4 of the 2013 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, Fox's cameras missed Boston closer Koji Uehara picking off pinch runner Kolten Wong to end the game (it the first postseason game in baseball history to end on a pickoff).
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