When David Hill stepped down as Fox Sports chairman and CEO
last summer to take on a new role with parent company News Corp., many media
outlets reporting his "promotion" described it as the end of an era at Fox
Well, Hill is back—perhaps to begin a new era at Fox Sports,
this time assisting an executive team that is putting together Fox Sports 1,
the new 24-hour, all-sports national cable network launching in August.
While Hill stresses that his involvement includes "offering
input" about the new network to Fox Sports copresidents Randy Freer and Eric
Shanks, who have the final say, he acknowledges that he's been down this road
"I have the time and the accumulated corporate knowledge of
what to look at and look for when starting up a sports network," Hill says.
"I'm here to bounce things off Randy and Eric. I'm working as part of a team
that is putting the new network together, and just adding my voice to the mix
as to what I think will work or not work."
Modest comments from the guy who built Fox Sports from
scratch back in 1993 and made it what it is today.
Part of the team helping Hill, Shanks and Freer to prep Fox
Sports for its launch in five months are Fox Sports Media Group's Scott
Ackerson, executive VP, studio production; John Entz, executive VP, production
and executive producer; Gary Hartley, executive VP, graphics; Bill Wanger, executive
VP, programming and research; and Robert Gottlieb, senior VP, head of
"While Randy and Eric are running the Fox Sports
division on a daily basis, I'm working with the team on the new network,
focusing on things like programming, scheduling and on-air graphics," Hill
And TV sports graphics are something Hill knows a little bit
about, having developed innovative concepts during such as the FoxBox, the
constant score and clock graphic during NFL games; the Fox Diamond Cam, a pen-sized
camera buried into the playing surface; the Catcher-Cam, a mini-camera placed
on top of a catcher's mask; in-base microphones; satellite tracking in NASCAR
coverage, which allows cars to be identified on-screen and provides speed, race
position and other data; audio-enhanced graphics styled after video games; and
the FoxTrax computer-enhanced hockey puck.
Hill might be working with the Fox Sports 1 team on more
graphic innovations, but he's not offering any details.
"I'm looking into different types of programming and helping
to create the look and feel of the network, but I can't get into any
specifics," he says.
But Hill says it's an exciting time in TV sports, and a main
contributor to the success of a sports network is the presentation of the
"TV sports is going through a fascinating period as far as
innovations in production, technology, graphics and smaller and smaller
mini-cameras," he says. "There is so much more powerful technology today than
when we first created Fox Sports in the early 1990s. But just as Fox Sports
evolved and found its way over a 20-year period, Fox Sports 1 will do the same,
in a continuous evolutionary mode."
While Fox has announced some of the sports programming that
will initially be on the new network, Hill doesn't rule out any sports as their
TV rights contracts come up for bid.
"We will initially program Fox Sports 1 with live sports like
NASCAR, MLB, college football, basketball and UFC," Hill says. "Will we be in a
position to bid on the NBA TV rights beginning with the 2016 season?
Absolutely. As TV rights come up for bid from different college and
professional leagues, we will be opportunistic and we will bid on them."
Media coverage of the Fox Sports 1 announcement last month
tried hyped up the possibility of the new network eating into ESPN's viewership
and ad dollars.
"I think ESPN is fabulous at what they do," Hills says.
"Steve Bornstein, George Bodenheimer and now John Skipper have done a great job
of running that network. It will be a challenge for us to be as good as ESPN
is. But I do believe we will eat into their ad revenue and maybe even into
their affiliate fees."
Hill continues, "They've had the playing field to themselves
for 30 years. But Fox has a history of creating successful networks. We
started Fox broadcast, Fox Sports and Fox News Channel, so there's no reason
why we can't have the same success with Fox Sports 1. We'll take some risks,
some chances, but give us two or three years and we will be rocking and
Though many marketers and programmers are coming up with
ways to integrate brands into content, Hill says that he and his team are
putting the focus on the viewer.
"When coming up with new innovations, we don't start off
from the advertiser perspective, but from the viewer perspective," Hill says.
"But we've found that what's great for the viewer is usually what advertisers
will embrace as well."
In regard to rights fees, much attention has been paid to
the astronomical fees that TV sports commands. But Hill doesn't see them
hitting a plateau any time soon.
"Sports rights fees are the simplest example of
what happens with supply and demand," Hill says. "There is one league for each
major sport and there are multiple TV bidders. The scarcity of supply and
multiplicity of demand will keep TV rights fees going up for the foreseeable