More on CNN’s BIG BIG BIG Lower Thirds…

After looking at CNN’s graphics a little more, I have a few more observations to toss out…

1) Compared to both MSNBC and FNC, CNN’s new larger lower thirds are right in line from a total vertical space perspective. However, that does not automatically let CNN off the hook because FNC’s graphics are too big and MSNBC’s graphics do not eat up all of the lower thirds horizontally so they don’t look as “in your face” as CNN’s new lower thirds do. FNC may have the more headache inducing lower thirds with their over caffeinated color scheme…especially when it’s breaking news, but CNN’s look more intimidating because they are so blocky and because there is often a lot of whitespace around that black text. I’ll get to why in a moment…

2) CNN’s move to eating up more vertical space on my TV screen is not just a result of going bigger for going bigger’s sake. It has more to do with branding and blaring headlines.

The new lower thirds emphasize social media. Over in the right corner with the live bug, CNN is putting the anchors’ Twitter handle. That’s not the problem though. The problem, and the reason for the larger lower thirds eating up so much vertical space now, is how the network is flashing its reporters names and Twitter handles in the main lower third.

Traditionally, networks, when they have a reporter doing a report, will flash the reporter’s name on the lower third and then replace the name with the headline or subject themes for the segment the reporter is covering.

But starting today, CNN is trying something different. It’s keeping the headline/subject theme text on the screen all the time. It never goes away. So how do you ID the reporter now? Well, CNN decided that the solution to this artificial self-inflicted problem (since they are adamant about keeping those blaring headlines on the screen 24/7 now) is to shove the reporter’s ID and Twitter handle under the headline. But to do that CNN had to raise the vertical space of the lower third.

So this is why CNN’s lower thirds look so damn big…because the network decided to leave its headlines up 24/7 and needed more space to work in the reporter’s ID.

The problem with this approach, of course, is that CNN doesn’t keep the reporter’s/anchor’s/contributor’s ID on the screen the whole time and when it reverts the headline moves down to the center and now looks like it is surrounded by an ocean of white space and that helps make the lower thirds look too damn big.

CNN tried to re-invent the lower thirds wheel today. It got a flat in the process…


17 Responses to “More on CNN’s BIG BIG BIG Lower Thirds…”

  1. Eh, maybe it’s for us older viewers. We need glasses, you know.

  2. The graphics are nice – but too big like Spud said.

  3. It’s not too bad when they have someone’s name under the headline which, I guess they read ICN, because it pretty much stays there most of the time.

  4. I have to call BS on the “older viewers” comment. All of a sudden now the lower thirds are unreadable for older viewers. The last decade wasn’t a problem? Rubbish…

    I will lay partial blame on the theory that the graphics are bigger because CNN, like MSNBC, and FNC now puts its feed in 16:9 letterbox format for SD NTSC viewers. That, in turn, does make the graphics smaller than they would be if the letterboxing wasn’t taking place. So maybe…just maybe…the larger graphics are partly a compensation/reaction to the 16:9 SD boxing. And to that I would say…it’s the second decade of the 21st century…get an HDTV already! Sheesh…

    That all said, if CNN hadn’t decided to keep its banner headlines up 24/7…most of these changes to the size of the graphics never happen in the fist place. That was the first domino that started the avalanche rolling (as I mix my metaphors)…

  5. icemannyr Says:

    I don’t like the quick push to the left that changes the clock to a different time zone and changes the show name to a hashtag.
    There should be a cross fade between them.

  6. CNN’s screen has been a cluttered mess for years. Now they’ve decided to clean it up by just covering the whole freakin’ thing. Next up, Wolf’s voice behind a test pattern (Google ‘test pattern’, kids).

  7. Old graphics still in use on CNNI. Anybody know the timeframe to change that over?

  8. CNN just made a change to the ticker to make it transparent like MSNBC’s old ticker.

  9. The ticker is white letters on a black border now.

  10. “the lower thirds are unreadable for older viewers.”

    ^^That might have been the case in the old CRT days, but todays LCD/LED flatscreens are gigantic in comparison. Now if your watching your TV on an tablet or phone…

  11. maybe they want big letters to distract people from anything odd CNN does (expect for Chryon mistakes)

  12. Sky News is better.

  13. Curious if you’ve seen the Gannett package. Seems like a cousin of this CNN lower third, though they don’t push as large of font.

  14. What I notice is that if you have a tendency to record segments, and then fast-forward through them, the new graphics are much easier to read, and then rewind to a segment that’s of interest.

  15. Spud, In my opinion these are my views as to the rationale for the design:

    1. The graphics are an extension of overnight airing of CNNI which is positive given news cycle and go there campaign. A focus on international events and use of cnni overnights has been nice to see.

    2. The push of CNN over the branding of individual shows like MSNBC does or in relation to alpha numeric naming system used in car brands, promotes and unifies the overall brand. For example Cadillac has ATS/XTS/CTS names for cars to promote Cadillac overall, and thus removing the show blocks from the left leaves only cnn as the brand vs shows.

    3. The headline driven banners look like breaking news at all times which is why people turn to cnn.

    4. CNN is used more in gyms, airports etc where people who haven’t watched cnn in awhile will read headlines easier now.

  16. 4. CNN is used more in gyms, airports etc where people who haven’t watched cnn in awhile will read headlines easier now.

    That, ladies and gentlemen, is a really good point.

  17. The lower thirds are large, yes, but it doesn’t help that none of the show packages have been adjusted for them. There’s any number of split screens which feel cut off, or have headroom that worked with the previous lower thirds – but now appear excessive.

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