P040: I Only Have Retinas For You

Last week, I linked to a two-year old article from Will Leitch about the evolution of broadcast graphics during sporting events. In the piece, Leitch breaks down the divergent paths taken by baseball and football and identifies the rise of fantasy sports as the rationale behind the over-saturation of stats during football games. And while that’s probably true – especially for football – I think it’s only part of the story.

High Definition TV signals began being broadcast in the United States in the year 1996 – coincidentally the year of one of Leitch’s examples. By the time this article was written, HDTV had reached more than two thirds of American households and we now peg that number at 77%. More pixels on screen means more real estate to work with and greater legibility of data at smaller sizes. Win, win, win?

Admittedly, it’s pretty unfair to cherry pick missed opportunities in an old blog post, especially from a writer that I admire as much as Will Leitch (man, this room got dusty all of a sudden), but with last week’s announcement of the 5K iMac displays high definition is on my mind. As an (occasional) optimist, I tend to believe that as technology improves, there will be those who put it to good, ethical uses. In the case of sports broadcasting, one such use would be delivering more of the secondary information and stats to enhance the viewing experience. Of course, the cynical take would be that the network broadcast teams are doing something, anything, to try and recapture the fickle attention spans of viewers immersed in second screen experiences.

In the end, the only thing that we can be sure of is that display resolution is going to continue to improve because money. And since physical screens can only get so large before they become completely ridiculous, I’d wager that we will, as a society, get better at designing and consuming high density information before we get larger pockets in our trousers.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron