X’s and O’s, Angles and Games

NFL Football Yardage Estimations Based on Camera Angle


  • Benjamin J. Lynn University of Florida
  • Roxane Coche University of Florida
  • Ashleigh Messick




broadcasting, football, Madden, sports, visual perception


In 2017, NFL viewers complained when NBC Sports used the “Madden” camera for live play-by-play coverage of two Thursday Night Football games. Their comments indicated that they had a difficult time estimating yardage from the new perspective. Those games were just two recent examples of viewers complaining about changes in the visual presentation of live sports broadcasts—a phenomenon that has been happening with the Madden camera for more than a decade. The sports broadcasters’ inability to adjust its production technique for live football coverage, despite repeated attempts, provides important insights about the nature of mass communication. As sports broadcasters continue to look for new production techniques in a constantly evolving media landscape, these findings could help guide their production practices. Using game footage from four NFL broadcasts, the present study tested for differences in yardage estimations made from the traditional game camera (i.e., a stationary camera perpendicular to the field) and the Madden camera (i.e., a moving camera on wires positioned over the field). Participants (N = 473) were randomly assigned to watch 11 plays from either the traditional game camera angle or the Madden camera angle. No significant differences were found in estimates of yardage gains based on camera angle. The
high variance in the findings suggests that distance estimations are complex visual processes that may require specialized training to improve accuracy.

Author Biographies

Benjamin J. Lynn, University of Florida

Benjamin J. Lynn is a doctoral student in the Department of Telecommunication at the University of Florida. His research interests include live remote sports broadcasts, mediated visual communication, and esports.

Roxane Coche, University of Florida

Roxane Coche, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Telecommunication and associate director of Sports Journalism and Communication at the University of Florida. Her research interests focus on sports media practices and social issues in the sports media industry.

Ashleigh Messick

Ashleigh Messick is a graduate of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. She currently attends Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law as a Juris Doctor candidate. Her research interests include social media practices and trends, as well as intellectual property law.


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