CreditCreditEspn By Richard Sandomir June 12, Could anything be simpler than a box in a corner of a TV screen continuously showing the score of a game and the time remaining?
Until mid-June , though, the score box did not exist in the United States.
Viewers had to rely on announcers mentioning the relevant information or wait to see a line score flash on the screen. The World Cup, which took place in the United States that year, changed that.
Instead, they were out to solve a dilemma: satisfying five sponsors that wanted their advertising messages to be heard during the games but were hampered by the fact that soccer has a running clock and no breaks — except for halftime — in which to run commercials. So ESPN and ABC crafted a constant element on the screen that was also a running ad: the box in the upper left-hand corner, featuring a sponsor on top with the time and score below.
The technology did not work perfectly early on. The salespeople were not pleased. The next game, I assumed everything would work, but we had no machines working in the first half, and I was losing my mind.
A rewriting of the software code fixed the problem, Drake said, and the score box recovered — and thrived. The score box was devised about two years earlier, in England, by David Hill, who was running Sky Sports and was soon after named president of Fox Sports.
His inspiration came as he watched, with growing frustration, a soccer match on the BBC. Take it down.
Fox deployed it for baseball in , and other networks developed their versions. They are now ubiquitous, in myriad sports on national networks and regional sports channels, and are more often dashboards stripped across the top or bottom of screens than boxes, containing all manner of statistics and ads that drop down or pop up out of them.
At ESPN, a small group of employees devotes much of its time to determining how to improve the look and impact of these information strips. Spike Szykowny, senior director of motion graphics at ESPN, said there had been debate for years about where to put dashboards top or bottom?
Looking back, Drake said he was surprised that it took until the mids for the score box to appear and become an essential part of the viewing experience.