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=== About David Hill ===
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== About David Hill ==
  
An influential sports television producer and innovator, David Hill has been a Senior Executive Vice-President of News Corp. since July 2012. Born in Australia, he started his career there in print media. He began his career as a copy boy at newspapers at the age of 17 and his move to television at the age of 19. He worked as a political journalist until his late 20s, when he produced sports for the first time. Although he confesses that he is not interested in sports (and would in fact prefer to read or listen to music over watching sports) he is passionate about televising these events for a mass audience. In his early 40s, he accepted a job offer from media mogul Rupert Murdoch. He relocated to England, started Eurosport and later Sky Sports. In 1994 the Fox network got the NFL, and Hill moved to Los Angeles from London to start the NFL on Fox. After a few years at the sports division, he left to run the network. He was a senior director of Direct TV before he returned to Fox and then to his current position in News Corps. Over the years he had a fruitful and lively collaboration with Stan Honey of Sportvision. Together they dreamed-up ideas that had transformed the way hockey, football and other sports are experienced by television viewers. In this interview he talks about this collaboration and the inspiration for Emmy-award winning broadcast enhancements such as the FoxTrax puck tracking system in Hockey, the Virtual Yellow 1st and Ten Line in football, pioneering advanced media work with NASCAR.  
+
An influential sports television producer and innovator, David Hill has been a Senior Executive Vice-President of News Corp. since July 2012.
  
== About the Interview  ==
+
Born in Australia, he started his career there in print media. He began his career as a copy boy at newspapers at the age of 17 and moved to television at the age of 19. He worked as a political journalist until his late 20s, when he produced sports for the first time. Although he confesses that he is not interested in sports (and would in fact prefer to read or listen to music over watching it)he is passionate about televising these events for a mass audience.
  
David Hill: An Interview Conducted by John Vardalas, IEEE History Center, 17 March 2009 Interview #492 for the IEEE History Center The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
+
In his early 40s, he accepted a job offer from media mogul Rupert Murdoch. He relocated to England, started Eurosport and later Sky Sports. In 1994 Fox network obtained a contract to televise the NFL, and Hill moved to Los Angeles from London to start the NFL on Fox. After a few years at the sports division, he left to run the network. He was a senior director of Direct TV before he returned to Fox and then to promoted to his current position in News Corps.
  
== Copyright Statement  ==
+
Over the years he had a fruitful and lively collaboration with Stan Honey of Sportvision. Together they dreamed-up ideas that had transformed the way hockey, football and other sports are experienced by television viewers. In this interview he talks about this collaboration and the inspiration for Emmy-award winning broadcast enhancements such as the FoxTrax puck tracking system in Hockey, the Virtual Yellow 1st and Ten Line in football and pioneering advanced media work with NASCAR.
  
This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center. Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: David Hill, an oral history conducted in 2009 by John Vardalas, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.
+
== About the Interview ==
  
== Interview ==
+
David Hill: An Interview Conducted by John Vardalas, IEEE History Center, 17 March 2009 Interview #492 for the IEEE History Center The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
 +
 
 +
== Copyright Statement ==
 +
 
 +
This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center. Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: David Hill, an oral history conducted in 2009 by John Vardalas, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.
 +
 
 +
== Interview ==
  
 
INTERVIEWEE: David Hill  
 
INTERVIEWEE: David Hill  
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DATE: 17 March 2009  
 
DATE: 17 March 2009  
  
PLACE: Century City, CA  
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PLACE: Century City, CA
  
== Early Career ==
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=== Early Career ===
  
 
'''Vardalas:'''  
 
'''Vardalas:'''  
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Then by a very strange combination of factors I ended up working for a guy in Australia called Cary Packer. I produced sports for him and found that I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I was a journalist I'd specialize in politics and industrial relations. And I found that in sports it was much purer than what I found in politics, which was very, very nasty, and dishonest and dishonorable. And the people involved in politics were inevitably looking after themselves, and occasionally there’d be someone that wanted to do it for the benefit of the people.  
 
Then by a very strange combination of factors I ended up working for a guy in Australia called Cary Packer. I produced sports for him and found that I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I was a journalist I'd specialize in politics and industrial relations. And I found that in sports it was much purer than what I found in politics, which was very, very nasty, and dishonest and dishonorable. And the people involved in politics were inevitably looking after themselves, and occasionally there’d be someone that wanted to do it for the benefit of the people.  
  
It was a refreshing change to deal with sportsmen and athletes. I felt there was a wonderful honestly there. And so I kept doing that in Australia for 11 years, and then, when I was in my early forties, Mr. Packer sold the channel, sold the network. I didn’t want to work for the new owner because I felt he was a crook, a guy called Alan Barna. And ultimately he did go to jail, and so I felt very justified. And Mr. Murdoch offered me a job in England to start a new channel. So I went across to England and started Eurosport. Then I started Sky Sports. In ’94 the Fox network got the NFL so I came out to Los Angeles from London where I started the NFL on Fox. And then we started covering hockey and then baseball. I left the sports division to run the network. Then I came back and started a couple channels, and News Corporation bought Direct TV. So, I went down and worked with Jayce Cary at Direct TV, which was a lot of fun. When News sold that to Joe Malone and Liberty Corporation, I came back here. And that’s what I do now. I do sports. We cover NFL football, Major League baseball, NASCAR, and we have a final year left on the BCS. So, that’s my background.  
+
It was a refreshing change to deal with sportsmen and athletes. I felt there was a wonderful honestly there. And so I kept doing that in Australia for 11 years, and then, when I was in my early forties, Mr. Packer sold the channel, sold the network. I didn’t want to work for the new owner because I felt he was a crook, a guy called Alan Barna. And ultimately he did go to jail, and so I felt very justified. And Mr. Murdoch offered me a job in England to start a new channel. So I went across to England and started Eurosport. Then I started Sky Sports. In ’94 the Fox network got the NFL so I came out to Los Angeles from London where I started the NFL on Fox. And then we started covering hockey and then baseball. I left the sports division to run the network. Then I came back and started a couple channels, and News Corporation bought Direct TV. So, I went down and worked with Jayce Cary at Direct TV, which was a lot of fun. When News sold that to Joe Malone and Liberty Corporation, I came back here. And that’s what I do now. I do sports. We cover NFL football, Major League baseball, NASCAR, and we have a final year left on the BCS. So, that’s my background.
  
== Leaving Political Journalism for Sport Production  ==
+
=== Leaving Political Journalism for Sport Production  ===
  
 
'''Vardalas:'''  
 
'''Vardalas:'''  
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Did you find reporting on sports interesting after the big issues of politics?  
 
Did you find reporting on sports interesting after the big issues of politics?  
  
'''Hill:''' [interposing] Well, it was interesting -- it came as a huge shock to me that I always felt when I stood in front of in Australia Parliament House and interviewing the politician. It always led the bulletin. But people would never really listen. It would gloss through. Yet the sports to them. Sports was an integral part of their lives and an important part of their lives. And what happened in a sporting genre was far more important on an emotional level than whatever antics the politicians of the day got up to.  
+
'''Hill:''' [interposing] Well, it was interesting -- it came as a huge shock to me that I always felt when I stood in front of in Australia Parliament House and interviewing the politician. It always led the bulletin. But people would never really listen. It would gloss through. Yet the sports to them. Sports was an integral part of their lives and an important part of their lives. And what happened in a sporting genre was far more important on an emotional level than whatever antics the politicians of the day got up to.
  
== The Advantages of Not Being a Sports Fan  ==
+
=== The Advantages of Not Being a Sports Fan  ===
  
 
'''Vardalas:'''  
 
'''Vardalas:'''  
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Right.  
 
Right.  
  
== First Collaboration with Stan Honey ==
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=== First Collaboration with Stan Honey ===
  
 
'''Vardalas:'''  
 
'''Vardalas:'''  
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Huh.  
 
Huh.  
  
== In Honey I Trust ==
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=== In Honey I Trust ===
  
 
'''Vardalas:'''  
 
'''Vardalas:'''  
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That was very evident to me the very first time that I’d sat down to talk to Stan that he had a lateral mind. And I knew that it would work, you know, and he kept saying, well, we haven’t got it, we haven’t got it. I said, “but you will.” I always had total confidence in him.  
 
That was very evident to me the very first time that I’d sat down to talk to Stan that he had a lateral mind. And I knew that it would work, you know, and he kept saying, well, we haven’t got it, we haven’t got it. I said, “but you will.” I always had total confidence in him.  
  
== How to Maintain a Fruitful Collaboration ==
+
=== How to Maintain a Fruitful Collaboration ===
  
 
'''Vardalas:'''
 
'''Vardalas:'''
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Absolutely, absolutely. I got twenty times my money’s worth. It was because of the controversy that it was huge. Everyone’s talking about it. “Ah, did you see the glowing puck? Is this the end of motherhood as we know it? Will the sun cease to come up tomorrow?” It was ridiculous. It’s a puck in a game of hockey for God’s sake. Why get activated?
 
Absolutely, absolutely. I got twenty times my money’s worth. It was because of the controversy that it was huge. Everyone’s talking about it. “Ah, did you see the glowing puck? Is this the end of motherhood as we know it? Will the sun cease to come up tomorrow?” It was ridiculous. It’s a puck in a game of hockey for God’s sake. Why get activated?
  
== The Little Score and Time Box  ==
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=== The Little Score and Time Box  ===
  
 
'''Vardalas:'''
 
'''Vardalas:'''
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No.
 
No.
  
== Death Threats ==
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=== Death Threats ===
  
 
'''Vardalas:'''
 
'''Vardalas:'''
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Well, it would never have happened if I had been watching sports here, but I was watching in Britain. For reasons I’m not sure of I became a huge fan of the Chelsea Football Club. It was a winter Sunday afternoon in London that only people who have lived there can experience. It’s pouring with rain. It’s grey. It’s cold. It’s really miserable. We’d been out walking the dogs up near [inaudible] Scrubs. So, I’d hosed the dogs down. They were filthy dirty, covered with mud. And I had these two little Wheaton terriers glaring at me. So I switched on the television, made myself a cup of tea, had a shower, and watched the football. And I switched the television on about 3:20, let’s say. It was a BBC production, and for 20 minutes I had no idea what the score was. And I thought if I was at the game, I’d be able to look across, see the scoreboard and see how much time was remaining. And I thought that’s what I’ll do if—when I get soccer, I'm going to put the time and the score up. And the stupidest thing I ever did was not to resign immediately and take out a copyright. I should have rented it to television channels for a dollar a minute. And I’d be living in a house next to Bill Gates right now. I don’t know if he’d like me as a neighbor, but there you go.
 
Well, it would never have happened if I had been watching sports here, but I was watching in Britain. For reasons I’m not sure of I became a huge fan of the Chelsea Football Club. It was a winter Sunday afternoon in London that only people who have lived there can experience. It’s pouring with rain. It’s grey. It’s cold. It’s really miserable. We’d been out walking the dogs up near [inaudible] Scrubs. So, I’d hosed the dogs down. They were filthy dirty, covered with mud. And I had these two little Wheaton terriers glaring at me. So I switched on the television, made myself a cup of tea, had a shower, and watched the football. And I switched the television on about 3:20, let’s say. It was a BBC production, and for 20 minutes I had no idea what the score was. And I thought if I was at the game, I’d be able to look across, see the scoreboard and see how much time was remaining. And I thought that’s what I’ll do if—when I get soccer, I'm going to put the time and the score up. And the stupidest thing I ever did was not to resign immediately and take out a copyright. I should have rented it to television channels for a dollar a minute. And I’d be living in a house next to Bill Gates right now. I don’t know if he’d like me as a neighbor, but there you go.
  
== Rupert Murdoch==
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=== Rupert Murdoch===
  
 
'''Vardalas:'''
 
'''Vardalas:'''
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Ah, really.
 
Ah, really.
  
== The Nature of Engineers ==
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=== The Nature of Engineers ===
  
 
'''Hill:'''
 
'''Hill:'''
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End of story, and they inevitably do it.
 
End of story, and they inevitably do it.
  
== The Virtual Yellow 1st and Ten Line==
+
=== The Virtual Yellow 1st and Ten Line===
  
 
'''Vardalas:'''
 
'''Vardalas:'''
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'''Vardalas:'''  
 
'''Vardalas:'''  
  
 
+
[interposing] Maybe ESPN—no, ESPN wasn’t around then yet, was it?
[interposing] Maybe ESPN—no, ESPN wasn’t around then yet, was it?
+
  
 
'''Hill:'''
 
'''Hill:'''
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--working together could have come up.
 
--working together could have come up.
  
 
+
===Contributing to the Global Spread of American Football===
==Contributing to the Global Spread of American Football==
+
  
 
'''Vardalas:'''
 
'''Vardalas:'''
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While working on the hockey puck or the first down, did you have any other ideas that you thought would be nice to put in that you were unable to put in or never got around to putting in?  
 
While working on the hockey puck or the first down, did you have any other ideas that you thought would be nice to put in that you were unable to put in or never got around to putting in?  
  
==What Remains to be Done==
+
===What Remains to be Done===
  
 
'''Hill:'''
 
'''Hill:'''
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Correct, but if there was an animated figure, you said right, this is what Betty Flange [phonetic] is trying to do. She’s trying to do a triple Salchow, and a perfect triple Salchow goes like that. Roll and take, up she goes, right, now see the way her feet, and she has to come down. The blade’s got to be there, boom, boom, boom, away she goes. I’ve got that. I know what to look for so when she does it, yes, or she didn’t get it.  
 
Correct, but if there was an animated figure, you said right, this is what Betty Flange [phonetic] is trying to do. She’s trying to do a triple Salchow, and a perfect triple Salchow goes like that. Roll and take, up she goes, right, now see the way her feet, and she has to come down. The blade’s got to be there, boom, boom, boom, away she goes. I’ve got that. I know what to look for so when she does it, yes, or she didn’t get it.  
  
==Rugby==
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===Rugby===
  
 
'''Vardalas:'''
 
'''Vardalas:'''
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I’ve got to tell you I look at—I actually watch it a lot. I buy a channel called Santana [** phonetic], which I watch—I’m watching the five nations at the moment, or six nations of Rugby. And I saw a game between Scotland and Ireland on Sunday. And I thought, dear Lord, it’s so quick now, it’s so violent, God. And I used to think it was tough when I played.
 
I’ve got to tell you I look at—I actually watch it a lot. I buy a channel called Santana [** phonetic], which I watch—I’m watching the five nations at the moment, or six nations of Rugby. And I saw a game between Scotland and Ireland on Sunday. And I thought, dear Lord, it’s so quick now, it’s so violent, God. And I used to think it was tough when I played.
  
==NASCAR==
+
===NASCAR===
  
 
'''Vardalas:'''
 
'''Vardalas:'''
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I’m missing it. So, what is it that hasn’t been done yet?  
 
I’m missing it. So, what is it that hasn’t been done yet?  
  
==The hip-hugging hologram==
+
===The hip-hugging hologram===
  
 
'''Hill:'''
 
'''Hill:'''
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How receptive were they to this initially?  
 
How receptive were they to this initially?  
  
==No One Trusts Anybody in Automotive Sport==
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===No One Trusts Anybody in Automotive Sport===
 
   
 
   
 
'''Hill:'''
 
'''Hill:'''
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Is this infrastructure set up every time there’s a NASCAR?
 
Is this infrastructure set up every time there’s a NASCAR?
  
==The Particularities of Broadcasting NASCAR events==
+
===The Particularities of Broadcasting NASCAR events===
  
 
'''Hill:'''
 
'''Hill:'''
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[interposing]  Well, we did it with baseball with, you know, the pitch and the batter’s box.
 
[interposing]  Well, we did it with baseball with, you know, the pitch and the batter’s box.
  
==Basketball==
+
===Basketball===
  
 
'''Vardalas:'''
 
'''Vardalas:'''
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Well, thank you so much for this interview.
 
Well, thank you so much for this interview.
 +
 +
{{DEFAULTSORT:Hill, David}}
  
 
[[Category:Business,_management_&_industry|{{PAGENAME}}]]
 
[[Category:Business,_management_&_industry|{{PAGENAME}}]]

Revision as of 20:34, 10 January 2013

Contents

About David Hill

An influential sports television producer and innovator, David Hill has been a Senior Executive Vice-President of News Corp. since July 2012.

Born in Australia, he started his career there in print media. He began his career as a copy boy at newspapers at the age of 17 and moved to television at the age of 19. He worked as a political journalist until his late 20s, when he produced sports for the first time. Although he confesses that he is not interested in sports (and would in fact prefer to read or listen to music over watching it)he is passionate about televising these events for a mass audience.

In his early 40s, he accepted a job offer from media mogul Rupert Murdoch. He relocated to England, started Eurosport and later Sky Sports. In 1994 Fox network obtained a contract to televise the NFL, and Hill moved to Los Angeles from London to start the NFL on Fox. After a few years at the sports division, he left to run the network. He was a senior director of Direct TV before he returned to Fox and then to promoted to his current position in News Corps.

Over the years he had a fruitful and lively collaboration with Stan Honey of Sportvision. Together they dreamed-up ideas that had transformed the way hockey, football and other sports are experienced by television viewers. In this interview he talks about this collaboration and the inspiration for Emmy-award winning broadcast enhancements such as the FoxTrax puck tracking system in Hockey, the Virtual Yellow 1st and Ten Line in football and pioneering advanced media work with NASCAR.

About the Interview

David Hill: An Interview Conducted by John Vardalas, IEEE History Center, 17 March 2009 Interview #492 for the IEEE History Center The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center. Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: David Hill, an oral history conducted in 2009 by John Vardalas, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Interview

INTERVIEWEE: David Hill

INTERVIEWER: John Vardalas

DATE: 17 March 2009

PLACE: Century City, CA

Early Career

Vardalas:

It is the 17th of March 4:22, and I'm in the office of David Hill. Thank you so much for agreeing to do this.

Hill:

John, it's my pleasure.

Vardalas:

Before we get into the details of all these innovations in which you were in some way involved, I’d like to get some background about. You're Australian?

Hill:

I'm Australian.

Vardalas:

--you get into the news business.

Hill:

Well, I—I have absolutely no education whatsoever. There was one key thing that kept me out of college.

Vardalas:

What was that?

Hill:

High school. It was — it was very tough. I became a journalist. I started work as a copy boy when I was 17, in newspapers. Then I moved to television when I was 19. I was a television journalist and moved into production when I was 27, 28. Moved into sports, in which I had had very little interest...if at all.

Then by a very strange combination of factors I ended up working for a guy in Australia called Cary Packer. I produced sports for him and found that I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I was a journalist I'd specialize in politics and industrial relations. And I found that in sports it was much purer than what I found in politics, which was very, very nasty, and dishonest and dishonorable. And the people involved in politics were inevitably looking after themselves, and occasionally there’d be someone that wanted to do it for the benefit of the people.

It was a refreshing change to deal with sportsmen and athletes. I felt there was a wonderful honestly there. And so I kept doing that in Australia for 11 years, and then, when I was in my early forties, Mr. Packer sold the channel, sold the network. I didn’t want to work for the new owner because I felt he was a crook, a guy called Alan Barna. And ultimately he did go to jail, and so I felt very justified. And Mr. Murdoch offered me a job in England to start a new channel. So I went across to England and started Eurosport. Then I started Sky Sports. In ’94 the Fox network got the NFL so I came out to Los Angeles from London where I started the NFL on Fox. And then we started covering hockey and then baseball. I left the sports division to run the network. Then I came back and started a couple channels, and News Corporation bought Direct TV. So, I went down and worked with Jayce Cary at Direct TV, which was a lot of fun. When News sold that to Joe Malone and Liberty Corporation, I came back here. And that’s what I do now. I do sports. We cover NFL football, Major League baseball, NASCAR, and we have a final year left on the BCS. So, that’s my background.

Leaving Political Journalism for Sport Production

Vardalas:

Did you find reporting on sports interesting after the big issues of politics?

Hill: [interposing] Well, it was interesting -- it came as a huge shock to me that I always felt when I stood in front of in Australia Parliament House and interviewing the politician. It always led the bulletin. But people would never really listen. It would gloss through. Yet the sports to them. Sports was an integral part of their lives and an important part of their lives. And what happened in a sporting genre was far more important on an emotional level than whatever antics the politicians of the day got up to.

The Advantages of Not Being a Sports Fan

Vardalas:

Really interesting, interesting. Did you find that any of your background as a news reporter in politics and industrial relations served you in any way in sports?

Hill:

Yeah. I’m not a huge sports fan, which is very odd for someone in my job. It always takes people by surprise that I’d much rather go to a Philharmonic concert than I would to a sports event. I certainly much prefer to read than do anything or listen to music, but I love the work. It’s not that I love sports. It’s that I love television. I fell in love with television when I first walked into my very first studio when I was 19. And it’s been a burning bright love affair ever since then.

I discovered in sports that-- in terms of cameras, and angles, and what I was able to portray - it was emotionally and creatively totally satisfying to me. I don’t care about what happens, and I can go home and my wife, who is a very pragmatic girl from Nebraska will say, well - well, what happened? Who won? And sometimes I can’t remember. But I know if we had a great telecast and if we had a bad telecast. With sports there’s going to be a superstar about to retire, someone will disgrace themselves. There is a phenomenal rookie who is about to burst on the scene. A team will win. A team will lose. A team will do something dramatic and that you’ll wake up the next morning and either see on television or read in the newspapers or on the net. And you’ll say, “wow, just imagine that happening.” It is there. With all the changes that I made in my career, with the various sports that I’ve covered, it doesn’t matter that much to me. What matters is the impact that the television makes on the viewer.

Vardalas: Ah.

Hill: If you’re a sports lover, by definition you love tradition. You think everything about it is terrific. And therefore you think that the way it’s covered is terrific. I don’t. I looked at baseball and asked why is it a silent movie? If you were lucky, you could hear the ball on the bat, but that was it. And to me close-up audio is far more impactful than a close-up video.

Vardalas:

Interesting.

Hill:

So, it was more of a love of television and the ability of what we can do with graphics. In my career don’t forget, I have seen the equipment that we’ve had to work with go from the most basic and cumbersome to miniaturization. And I started off with graphics that were called tel-ops [phonetic] or it was effectively we stuck—

Vardalas:

What is it?

Hill:

Tel-ops, we stuck letrocet onto a black background and put it up in front of the camera. Now, it’s 3D graphics, which are fantastic.

Vardalas:

I see.

Hill:

So I’ve seen all that come through in my career.

Vardalas:

It’s interesting you say that about your interest in sports. None of the people at Sportvision seem to have an interest in watching sports on television.

Hill:

Good.

Vardalas:

But they like the challenge of--

Hill:

[interposing] Yes.

Vardalas:

--doing something that can be useful in sports.

Hill:

Yes.

Vardalas:

Yes. Well, let’s get onto the challenges then.

Hill:

Right.

First Collaboration with Stan Honey

Vardalas:

The hockey story.

Hill:

Right.

Vardalas:

From your recollection how did this idea come to light?

Hill:

Well, it was very simple. We had just started Fox Sports. We had done, I think, our first or second year of NFL coverage. We decided obviously that we wanted to expand, and hockey came along. I had seen one game of ice hockey in Calgary, Canada in 1988 when I was covering the Winter Olympics up there, which I thought was fabulous. And so we bid and got the rights, and then we got to cover it. And then I asked, “So what I do with it”. With any sport that I’m doing, I try and read as much as I possibly can about its history to understand what was it about that very beginning that made people stop and watch. Given that the discretionary dollar was so much more limited 100 years ago, what made a farmer take 25 cents, which could have bought heaven knows what, and pay to watch other people play the sport? What was it about it that they loved? There was on an open rink. Guys would stand around and watch other guys with a puck and then things developed from there. It became very apparent that the problem with the sport was that you couldn’t see the puck, it was tiny. It whipped backwards and forwards, and you couldn’t see it. We needed to try and make the puck visible—very simple. It was not a great leap of intellectual distance to get from here to there. What’s the problem with the game? Oh, you can’t see the puck—ergo can we make the puck work?

So, having figured that out, the smartest guy I knew was a guy called Stan Honey. I had met Stan Honey in ’89 I think. He’d sold his company, Etak to News Corporation. And, of course, you know, if it wasn’t for Stan we wouldn’t have those little voices in our cars telling us to turn left and turn right. At the time, after having sold his company to News, Stan was working for a company that could well have become a Google or could have become a Yahoo. It was a company called Delphi in Boston. It was the origins of ER Who [phonetic] or a Google, or what have you. It was something that Murdoch had foreseen. It could have worked. Unfortunately I don’t think that the business management that was in there had sufficient vision, because if they had there wouldn’t be a Yahoo or a Google. There would be a Delphi and a Microsoft.

Murdoch had got me to do a film, or he wanted me to make a film, about the digital age, about what was to come. I asked him “who should I talk to about this?” That, you know, it’s all well and good, but if I’m going to make a film about it, I need to get some—you know, something concrete. And he said, well, Stan Honey knows. Stan’s got an IQ in seven figures, So, I called Stan up. How you doing it? I went out to Boston, and we talked for like two days. Stan gave me this wonderful vision of effectively what is today, satellite television. Well, satellite television had started in Britain, but it hadn’t started here, and about what the internet would be, and search engines and maps. It was just, and virtually everything that Stan said would happen did happen.

And so I went back up. I made the film and trial, trial, trial, so I’m back here with the hockey. And as he was the smartest man I knew, I called Stan up again. And I said how you doing, what’s going on? “Nothing much,” he replied. He wasn’t sailing around the world or trying to commit suicide in a watery grave, which is his want. So, we sat down. I said, look, here’s a project. That I really want you to try and create - make the puck glow. And Stan said, “well, it’s going to be expensive.” I figured that I had a marketing budget to let the world know that the NHL was going to be on Fox. And I thought, well, if—if Stan can come up with an answer that would be the biggest marketing that we could do. So, I said, “all right Stan, whatever it costs”, within limits of course.

Stan claims this never happened, but I know it did. Three or four weeks into this I get this excited call from him one night, and he said I’ve got the answer. And I said, well, yeah what is it? He said we’re going to put some plutonium in the puck. And I said, “Stan, I can just see the headline. There was a small—small nuclear explosion at a hockey rink.” Anyway— The FoxTrax puck tracking system

Vardalas:

He claims that it was a Fox—somebody from your side.

Hill:

No, no, I doubt me or anyone else was smart enough to think of the plutonium. So, it’s him. I know he’s always going to say - I think he’d had a couple of Sam Adams too many when he called me. Anyway, he came up with this idea, which was to do with lighting, LED lights within the puck, which then—and I have no idea about the engineering , relayed to a sensor on the camera. And then that went to a computer, and then this ended up on the screen with a little blue light. And so it was trial and error, and we trailed it. When we launched it in Boston for the all-star game, the press came out of the woodwork. It was huge.

Vardalas:

Yes.

Hill:

And so we had this army of press, and Stan and I stood there and tried to explain it. I had no clue. Stan chatted away and of course the journalists had no clue about what he was saying because it was very technical. Anyway, the bottom line is that we put it on and it worked to a certain extent. I think it was the highest rated hockey game ever, ever, ever. Everyone tuned in to see the puck, which then created this vast controversy about whether or not it was right. The Canadians were going to hang me in effigy and if they could catch me. Then I got cranky and said something nasty about Canadian beer. There’s a particular Canadian beer I don’t like. Well, it—I don’t think it’s got any flavor.

Vardalas:

Which one is that?

Hill:

Well, I can’t tell you that. It’s—but it’s close to Molson’s.

Vardalas:

I lived in Canada so go ahead.

Hill:

I love Labatt’s Blue, but I didn’t like Molson’s. Anyway, so I’m having an argument with some journalists from the Toronto Globe and Mail who, even though I am a commonwealth cousin of theirs, showed no mercy. It had to do with hockey. One of the funniest cartoons, I should have kept it and I wish I had, and it was—it was like [inaudible] David Hill. This is all you need to see hockey: a pair of glasses and that was it. Anyway, the thing worked --

Vardalas:

[interposing] Can I take you back now?

Hill:

Uh-huh.

Vardalas:

Did you have a hard sell to any of your superiors saying we’re going to blow this amount of money on a glowing puck?

Hill:

I never told them.

Vardalas:

Oh, you just had this budget and just risked a lot?

Hill:

Huh.

In Honey I Trust

Vardalas:

If it hadn’t worked well?

Hill: [interposing] I’d get sacked. I always figured someone else would give me a job so it’s never, ever worried me. Well, shit, you know, like someone—I figured that I know enough about the business that if I don’t get—if my employment ever stopped here, and—you know, God knows, would I have got sacked over it? Who knows, but it’s one of those things. I knew it was going to work. I knew if Stan said to me this is going to work, I knew it was going to work and that was it.

Vardalas:

Along the way were you ever nervous about it? Because I spoke to the engineers on the project. They were nervous about it. Particularly in view of all the publicity about this is going to be the greatest thing...

Hill:

Absolutely. Well, of course.

Vardalas:

Did you keep track of where they were going?

Hill:

Yes.

Vardalas:

And how did you feel—is this thing going to be ready?

Hill:

I always trusted Stan because I knew him, I knew what he’d done, and I knew the way his mind worked. And to me Stan has got this incredible mind which is both lateral and logical. And he’s a very unusual engineer. To me most engineers are purely logical whereas Stan is lateral. Are you familiar with lateral thinking, you know, Edward Debono and all that?

Vardalas:

Yes.

Hill:

That was very evident to me the very first time that I’d sat down to talk to Stan that he had a lateral mind. And I knew that it would work, you know, and he kept saying, well, we haven’t got it, we haven’t got it. I said, “but you will.” I always had total confidence in him.

How to Maintain a Fruitful Collaboration

Vardalas:

Stan depicts your interaction with him, and he comes back to this idea often, as one of collaboration with you as the “creative” guy. He’s come to you with this idea, and you would reply “That’s a stupid idea, but if you could do this—

Hill:

Sure. Sure, but that’s the way any collaboration works. You know that I write music, i.e. write the words. I’ll work with a musician who’ll do the music. And I might write a verse, which mightn’t scan correctly, but if—and so it’s about how do we get this going? And the same thing with script. It’s like Ed Garin [** phonetic] and I. Ed and I will pace up and down about where we’re going to put cameras, or what we’re going to do, or how we’re going to do it. And he’ll say what about so and so? I’ll say, well, I don’t know. What about so and so? The same thing with me and Stan. It was, “what about this?” What about that? Will this work? And, yeah, it was pure collaboration.

Vardalas: Was there any discussion about the puck itself, the blue glow, the blue mist? The engineers tell me that the Fox people were not happy with this color. They wanted something else.

Hill:

No, there’s a lot of myth goes on and all this crap. You know, like it’s—why wouldn’t I have wanted blue?

Vardalas:

I don’t know.

Hill: Like the Fox Sports logo is—you know, the main color of Fox Sports is blue. So, you know, logically, if you’re going to go on—blue. So, that makes no sense. What am I going to use, puse? I’d like to use aquamarine, yeah right.

Vardalas: You said the controversy was quite large.

Hill:

Heated, which was fantastic.

Vardalas:

You got your money’s worth.

Hill:

Absolutely, absolutely. I got twenty times my money’s worth. It was because of the controversy that it was huge. Everyone’s talking about it. “Ah, did you see the glowing puck? Is this the end of motherhood as we know it? Will the sun cease to come up tomorrow?” It was ridiculous. It’s a puck in a game of hockey for God’s sake. Why get activated?

The Little Score and Time Box

Vardalas:

But you mentioned in the beginning sports people are about—

Hill:

Yeah, well I’ll tell you the funniest story. You know my little box. On every television screen now during a sports broadcast there’s this little box with the score and the time.

Vardalas:

Yes.

Hill:

Now, I invented that in 1982. Every sport that you see anywhere in the world, you’re in Transylvania, you’re in Albania, wherever, that exists in Dilbert, there’s the little box. I started that one, I think in 1982 August, when I was at Sky Sports. When I came out here, I started it on the NFL football, and it comes out of a kyron and it’s score and time. Well, every sport now has it. And it’s not an engineering thing.

Vardalas:

When you say “invented it” …

Hill:

[interposing]I did.

Vardalas:

--now what does invention mean in this case. You just came up with the idea …

Hill:

And then did it. Well what does inventing mean if you don’t?

Vardalas:

Was it technically difficult to do?

Hill:

No.

Death Threats

Vardalas:

Just someone had to think of it?

Hill:

Someone had to think of it and then say I’m going to do it in a kyron and I thought I had it. It was while watching a soccer game with Liverpool, August ’92 that I got the idea. This story is similar to the ridiculous the puck controversy. So, when I started the little box in the corner of the television screen on NFL games, I got death threats. The FBI and the LAPD came to see me. They said: “Look Mr. Hill, these threats are very serious. There are no misspellings in them, and they said we know who you are. You’re a foreigner. You’re screwing with our football. We’re going to kill you. We know where you live. We know where your kids go to school.” And I said: “Well this is pretty. What should I do?” And they slipped a piece of paper across the table and said: “We would suggest you take that.” I asked: “what is that?” They said it was a permit for a concealed weapon. Rather than me wondering around with a 38 strapped to my belt, I replied: “I’ll take my chances.”

So, people obviously got pissed off about the fact that I was putting a little box in the corner of the screen. When I started that in ’94, the controversy was huge. You had NBC saying we’ll never use it because they felt the viewer was so stupid that if they tuned in to see that the game wasn’t close, they’d turn it off. It’s just, duh—anyway.

Vardalas:

What made you come to the idea that the game needed one of those little boxes?

Hill:

Well, it would never have happened if I had been watching sports here, but I was watching in Britain. For reasons I’m not sure of I became a huge fan of the Chelsea Football Club. It was a winter Sunday afternoon in London that only people who have lived there can experience. It’s pouring with rain. It’s grey. It’s cold. It’s really miserable. We’d been out walking the dogs up near [inaudible] Scrubs. So, I’d hosed the dogs down. They were filthy dirty, covered with mud. And I had these two little Wheaton terriers glaring at me. So I switched on the television, made myself a cup of tea, had a shower, and watched the football. And I switched the television on about 3:20, let’s say. It was a BBC production, and for 20 minutes I had no idea what the score was. And I thought if I was at the game, I’d be able to look across, see the scoreboard and see how much time was remaining. And I thought that’s what I’ll do if—when I get soccer, I'm going to put the time and the score up. And the stupidest thing I ever did was not to resign immediately and take out a copyright. I should have rented it to television channels for a dollar a minute. And I’d be living in a house next to Bill Gates right now. I don’t know if he’d like me as a neighbor, but there you go.

Rupert Murdoch

Vardalas:

Did Murdoch have any views on all of this?

Hill:

No.

Vardalas:

Did he ever voice anything about this idea? Did he ever ask, “What’s going on here?”

Hill:

No. All Rupert expects any of his people is to make things better. The whole ethos of Rupert, and I talked to his mother about it, and she said that essentially Rupert has the blood of a Scottish engineer in his veins.

Vardalas:

Ah, really.

The Nature of Engineers

Hill:

Well, the Scots engineers, you know, my grandfather was a mine engineer, and like—and I’m one generation Australian, five hundred generations Scottish. And so Rupert Murdoch wants to make things better. He’s got this drive, and he cannot see anything that—he doesn’t buy anything that he knows he cannot improve. And we’re all expected to do the same. We’re all expected to be imbued with this—this kind of like [** inaudible] with a strange device to go out and make things better. And it’s—I don’t know whether it’s a Scottish trait or whatever, but that’s what he is. And he would have read about it, but it was something that I was doing. It was no big whoops and it was creating controversy and it was—you made it better. Yes, good. What are you going to do next? What else are you going to do? Oh, okay, well Stan and I have done the puck, and that’s it. Well, what else you going to do?

Vardalas:

That’s it. Now, with the puck just before it debuted at the all-star game, they told me that the week before it was a complete disaster when it was tested in another arena.

Hill:

Uh-huh, uh-huh.

Vardalas:

Do you remember that?

Hill:

Yep.

Vardalas:

Do you remember what your feelings were?

Hill:

I said we’ll find another—do it again, try it again.

Vardalas:

Uh-huh, so you had a lot of confidence in these guys?

Hill:

I had confidence in Stan, yeah, absolutely. See, the trouble with engineers is that engineers are essentially if you pare it all back, pessimists. That an engineer isn’t going to see a glass half full or half empty. An engineer is going to see a glass that’s twice as big as what it needs to be, and what you have to do with engineers is imbue them with confidence. And I have known, and loved, and fought with engineers all my adult life, and--

Vardalas:


[interposing] You’re surrounded with them in this business.

Hill:

Well, of course, and I love them, and I hate them. But it’s essentially they’re pessimists, and you have to say: “now listen, you can do it. This is what you’ve done before, and you’ve done this, and you’ve done that, so ergo you can do this. You can make this happen. You’ve got it within yourself. Now, go and do it.” Vardalas: End of story.

Hill:

End of story, and they inevitably do it.

The Virtual Yellow 1st and Ten Line

Vardalas:

So, now we jump to football. Stan said that he came to you about the idea of putting up advertisements in games over the screen, over the video image. And you—and he remembers you saying, “that’s a dumb idea, but if you could do something…”.

Hill:

Right, it was--

Vardalas:

Do you remember that at all?

Hill:

Yeah, no. What had actually happened about that was after Stan had dreamed up the glowing puck, we started doing the NFL, and don’t forget, what I knew about NFL football you could write on the back of a stamp. To me, there was all this gaggle of people on the line, and then this would all happen, and then they’d move forward two yards. And at the time there was an application on, and this is going back to ’94, on something in the computer that if you put a little mark here and you put a little mark there appeared a line. And I asked some of the engineers, “is it possible to superimpose that straight line over the screen, on the telestrator and that, a line appears as the down line? They said, “no”.

So then we were talking to John Madden. In our very first meeting, drawing a first-down line came up. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that”, we thought. And so that idea of a first-down marker had been floating around.

Vardalas:

Oh, it had been floating around?

Hill:

Yeah, well in my head anyway, and obviously in John Madden’s head. We’d obviously got to the similar idea through different routes, me through a lack of knowledge of the game and something that would help me, John through a total understanding of the game, something that would help the viewer. So, Madden and I had got to the same stage. It then became how the hell do you do it? I thought the simple method would be similar to the computer program that I’d seen that could draw a straight line. It was then when Stan came up and asked about superimposing advertisements during game. And I said, well no, but could you mark a line and put that up? And then he went away and did it. I think he had already started the company called Sportvision at his stage. They’d taken the puck patents and left. And the irony of that Fox didn’t have that line first despite the fact that we had been instrumental in doing it and having it there and then in figuring out—well, it worked. I seem to recall that advertizing was down and that we had some kind of credit crunch. I think it was on NBC put it up first, or someone else--

Vardalas:

[interposing] Maybe ESPN—no, ESPN wasn’t around then yet, was it?

Hill:

Oh, yeah, ESPN, ESPN—oh, yes, yes, heaven’s above, ESPN was there, but I don’t think they were into any magic tricks.

Vardalas:

So, somebody other than Fox had that first-down line first?

Hill: Yes, yeah, and I think it was full season. I didn’t want to spend the money to put it up there because we were really, really tight in terms of profitability. One thing I have worked out about working in television is that it always pays to be in the black and not in the red. I deliberately forewent the application because I felt that it didn’t warrant it at the time to spend the money. The second season we came in and did it, and away it went. To me it’s like I think, in this life, it’s dreaming the stuff up and making it work is key. You know, that’s what’s so much fun, and the application, like that’s being an architect. And I think it’s so much better to be an architect than a maintenance guy. Because s a maintenance guy you just do it, and do it, and do it. But as an architect you actually put yourself on the line and you dream stuff up and hopefully it works.

Vardalas:

Now, when you were coming up—correct me if I’m wrong, but is your name on the patent?

Hill:

Yeah.

Vardalas:

Stan keeps saying that these technical ideas needed your creative input. It’s great having a creative person next to an engineer, but how did actually manifest itself?

Hill:

Well, you know, my great regret is that when Stan was up at Sleepy Hollow or wherever he was outside of San Francisco and I was always too busy, and it’s interesting looking back, I should have gone up there and spent a month. I would have driven him nuts, and I probably would have destroyed his liver. But if I had just been up there and just chatting—but I never did it because I was always doing other stuff, which when I look back on it was so—so temporary —it wasn’t funny. And who knows what the hell he and I--

Vardalas:

[interposing] Yes.

Hill:

--working together could have come up.

Contributing to the Global Spread of American Football

Vardalas:

The yellow line unlike the hockey puck was well received.

Hill:

Huge. I’ve heard that people around the world now understand what American football is about because of that.

Vardalas:

Really?

Hill:

No one ever understood what it was all about, what the first down was. And then there was this clear physical evidence that, okay, the team has got to move that line from there to there and this team is going to stop them. And that’s it. It’s that simple. Guys tell me, well, my wife now gets football for the first time. The whole thing with these tricks, and they are visual tricks but they’re not tricks really, because everything that I’ve ever done and Stan’s done with me has been to explain the sport to the viewer.

The great myth is that everyone, especially males, understand all there is about every single sport. And they believe that if they ever acknowledge the fact that they don’t know 100% that a certain tender part of the male anatomy will fall off with a dull thud. And whereas in fact most guys don’t know crap about sports. They know enough to get by, but they certainly don’t know as much as any professional, or a coach, or whatever. They might know 20 or 30%. So what I’ve always done in my production of the sport is to sugar coat the information pill about the sport. And I’m especially cognizant of a dad sitting with his son and the son turning to his dad and saying, dad, what does that mean? And the father saying, son, I don’t know. All fathers have to be omnipotent all the time. So, I never want any of my announcers to leave anything hanging for young viewers. So the first down did. For millions of people in this country who had grown up with football said, “now I get it”.

Vardalas:

While working on the hockey puck or the first down, did you have any other ideas that you thought would be nice to put in that you were unable to put in or never got around to putting in?

What Remains to be Done

Hill:

Well, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that I’ve never done. The organization that needs Stan’s brilliance right now is the IOC. And I’ll explain why. When you and I grew up, Wide World of Sports was on every weekend, and Sports Spectacular. You, and I, and the rest of the country would sit and watch Olympic style sports. We would watch downhill skiing, we’ll watch track and field, we’d watch diving, we’d watch—we’d watch everything to do with the Olympics. And so when the Olympic Games came on and what McKay did so brilliantly in the seventies was that he knew that the bulk of his audience understood the sports because they saw them week in, week out. What he did with the up close and personal was to let us know, the American audience, who these other athletes were and so that you then had a personal rooting interest in whoever it was. The essence of what it was, you ran the 100 meters at school, or you threw the javelin, or you knew someone who did, and you did the high hurdles, or you swam, or you played water polo. So, you understood all the Olympic sports. That doesn’t happen these days. Kids don’t throw javelins in school. They don’t do the same track and field that happened in the seventies. They certainly never see it on television, never see it.

Vardalas:

Is that because of the dominance of these major sports?

Hill:

Well, probably. But it’s not just that, you know. The thing that astounds me, with all these little channels starting and the internet going, is that this would have seemed to me to be the ideal place to put track and field. You can put on the greatest track and field meeting in the world, and you’ll get a rating of like 0.3. Wrap it in the flag, put it on the Olympics, and you’ll get a 17, but people have forgotten what the essence of the sport is. What I’ve said to the IOC is that they need people like Stan Honey to show, in an articulated form, what the essence of what a diver has to do that’s perfect. One of the great things that has come from the first-down line on football is that moving line in swimming, which I think is fantastic. So, you know when Michael Phelps is swimming, if he is in front of the world record or behind it. Oh, look, he’s catching it, he’s catching it. He’s in front. He’s in front. [** inaudible] boom, that’s great. It’s little things like that that need to be added into those sports so the kids can get what these athletes are trying to do.

Vardalas:

Figure skating is an example. They talk about all these spins, and moves, and jumps.

Hill:

What the hell is it? What is a triple Salchow? I have no idea.

Vardalas:

And no one ever explains it on those shows.

Hill:

Correct, but if there was an animated figure, you said right, this is what Betty Flange [phonetic] is trying to do. She’s trying to do a triple Salchow, and a perfect triple Salchow goes like that. Roll and take, up she goes, right, now see the way her feet, and she has to come down. The blade’s got to be there, boom, boom, boom, away she goes. I’ve got that. I know what to look for so when she does it, yes, or she didn’t get it.

Rugby

Vardalas:

Okay, I see, and before we move on to another area, what about—does Fox broadcast Rugby?

Hill:

No.

Vardalas:

What could somebody do to make Rugby intelligible to the American audience?

Hill:

Well, do you know where American football came from?

Vardalas:

Well, I imagine Rugby at one point, but--

Hill:

Rugby and soccer. And that’s why there are 11 players on the field because there’s eleven men in soccer. It goes back to 1876 where I think it was Yale went up to McGill College. Yale played soccer and McGill in Canada played Rugby. And so the—the American guys had such a good time that that’s where American football came from. And what you have is the scrum instead of packing down stands up. You have the quarterback. You have the halfback. You have the fullback, so—and yet, you know, your wide receivers are your wingers, and it’s—it’s essentially the same. I grew up playing Rugby, and--

Vardalas:

[interposing] That’s why I asked you.

Hill:

Yeah, I love it, I love it.

Vardalas:

It’s unintelligible to Americans unless you follow it. I think it would be great if it was explained.

Hill:

I’ve got to tell you I look at—I actually watch it a lot. I buy a channel called Santana [** phonetic], which I watch—I’m watching the five nations at the moment, or six nations of Rugby. And I saw a game between Scotland and Ireland on Sunday. And I thought, dear Lord, it’s so quick now, it’s so violent, God. And I used to think it was tough when I played.

NASCAR

Vardalas:

Another area you’ve been involved in with the Sportsvision people is NASCAR.

Hill:

Uh-huh.

Vardalas:

Can you tell me something about how?

Hill:

I’ve always felt that any form of motor sport was unintelligible because I didn’t think it was covered very well. And I don’t think the announcers with the possible exception of the main BBC Formula One announcer did a very good job at calling it.

What I wanted to come up with, and what I said to Stan was that you’ve got a whole bunch of cars. You don’t know which cars are on the lead lap. The car that’s leading could be in the middle of a pack surrounded by lap cars. And what I wanted him to build me was a box that sat in front of the announcer with all the car numbers. And the announcer to say—the lead car is Jeff Gordon, car number 24. And he would press a switch in front of him, which would then have a hip-hugging hologram around Jeff’s car so it would be gold. All right, the second car is Jeff Burton, number 31. So, he hits 31, and there is a silver aura hip-hugging hologram if you will around Jeff Burton’s car. And then there’s third car is car number eight, whose that, Mark Martin. And he’s coming third, bank, so there’s a bronze.

So, you look at a wide shot, and you say, ah, okay. There’s Jeff Gordon. There’s Jeff Burton, and there’s Mark Martin, first, second, and third, and the audience knows what it is. And because you’re tracking in three-dimensional space, you then have their speed. You now have their splits. You have everything there. That’s what I wanted to do. So, I said to Stan, now listen, this is going to be key to NASCAR. For us to take NASCAR and make it intelligible to a broad audience that’s got to be key. So, Stan went away and dreamed stuff up. But Sportvision didn’t quite do what I wanted.

Vardalas:

I’m missing it. So, what is it that hasn’t been done yet?

The hip-hugging hologram

Hill:

The hip-hugging hologram for one, and the box that’s in front of the announcer so the announcer then has to key it. Rather than the director having to say to an engineer, okay, well look I want to see, you know, —the announcers, instead can do it as they’re talking and getting excited. “Burton is now catching Gordon, and, boom, 31 is now leading 24.” So the audience can see the change happening on their screen. That hasn’t happened yet.

Vardalas:

So to integrate that into the narrative, the announcer pulls it together?

Hill:

Yes, yes, it becomes seamless. So that the illustration becomes a natural part of the commentary and the dialog that’s going on between the announcer and the audience.

Vardalas:

So what happens now? Is the announcer speaking but somebody else in the booth is saying--

Hill:

Yeah, the director is saying give me—let me see flag car 23, flag car 31, flag car 99, boom, boom, boom. And then it comes up. But having said that’s what I wanted, what Sportvision did was the impossible. I think that NASCAR itself and everyone involved with NASCAR owes Sportvision a huge debt of gratitude because it demystified the sport. And people could see and say “I now get it, I now see he’s first, second or third. I now know what’s what. I now know what the split is. I know that there’s a 0.7-second difference, da, da, da, da, da” and That is all key to the enjoyment and the understanding of the sport. So, again, it’s another thing that it’s not a trick per se. I hated using that word before. It is an aid to the viewer to understand what’s going on.

Vardalas:

Yeah. So, when this idea came to you about the box and encircling the car.

Hill:

Hip-hugging hologram. I have no idea. I have no idea.

Vardalas:

Did this system come before or after Fox had acquired the rights to broadcast NASCAR?

Hill:

No, it was—I don’t, Jesus-- No, it was just a Honey-Hill conversation I think. That’s probably all it was, and Stan started thinking, well you know, you’d have to put—you have do a GPS and you have to do this, and you have to do this, and you have to put it in the cars, and then you’d have to bring that back. And then you’d have to have the tracking device, da, da, da.

Vardalas:

[interposing] Now, were you involved in the talks to sell NASCAR on this system.

Hill:

Sure.

Vardalas:

How receptive were they to this initially?

No One Trusts Anybody in Automotive Sport

Hill:

Well, they weren’t because, you know, it’s an automotive sport—no one trusts anyone else. They always think that someone else has got a better edge. Even today Jeff Gordon, unless you take his hand and twist it, won’t allow a camera in his car because he thinks that it’s going to disadvantage him. So, we then had to put these huge batteries in the car, and we had to put the GPS. I convinced Bill France, Jr., that this was going to be a huge plus. Bill France said, right, we’re going to do it. Then a frickin’ battery caught on fire in one of the cars.

Vardalas:

Oh.

Hill:

So, imagine, ha, terrific. So, it was like the end of the world thing, oh my God after all this crap. And I had to go and talk to the owners, and grovel, and plead. “Oh, it will never happen again. They were all cool with it.

Vardalas:

Compared to the other innovations, the NASCAR stuff is quite a complex--

Hill:

And expensive.

Vardalas:

Who bears the cost?

Hill:

We do. The broadcaster does.

Vardalas:

Is this infrastructure set up every time there’s a NASCAR?

The Particularities of Broadcasting NASCAR events

Hill:

Yes. That’s the problem. The problem with NASCAR is that you’ve got a five-mile loop. The simplest sport to do is basketball. You’ve got this tiny little area, right. Put your cameras in; it’s all there. Then you go to baseball. Then you go to football. Then you go to NASCAR. You’ve got a five-mile track. So, you’ve got to take the cable. You’ve got to put the loops. You’ve got to do the cameras. You’ve got to do the audio, and then you do this stuff. So, it’s—it is very cost-intensive to get the package that the 14, 15, 20 million people sit down and watch on a Sunday afternoon. And now watch all around the world.

Vardalas:

I see.

Hill:

It’s becoming hugely popular worldwide.

Vardalas:

Can this technology be moved over to Formula One?

Hill:

Easy, easy, it can go—anything that moves. You can do it from—you know, if you wanted to have a steamroller race you could do it.

Vardalas: Would the Formula One Organization allow it to happen?

Hill:

Well, the question is would Bernie Eccleston allow it? Who knows?

Vardalas:

Okay.

Hill:

Who knows? I’ve spoken to him about it. I believe that it would make the sport even more popular because more people would know what’s what. The difficulty in Formula One is that you have teams that will go out with the same colors, and they have tiny little letters that you can never see. So, you’ll have two cars driving around , two Ferrari, and they’re both red, and one might be number two, and one might be number three. It’s not like on a stock car where there are these thumping great numbers that you can see from space. Vardalas: And of course, excuse me, but instead of a five-mile track you’ve got a whole city sometimes.

Hill:

Sure.

Vardalas:

I mean that must be an expensive proposition to set it up.

Hill:

Not really. Most of the Formula One tracks could do it simply.

Vardalas:

Are there any other sports that Fox is involved in that you’ve been thinking about doing this kind of digital innovation to--

Hill:

[interposing] Well, we did it with baseball with, you know, the pitch and the batter’s box.

Basketball

Vardalas:

What about basketball?

Hill:

Well, it’s—again, it’s a cost/benefit issue. It’s all well and good to do it, but you’ve got to say to yourself, you know, it’s going to cost X. But do I get a direct return? Everything’s an investment. So, the reason why I thought it was worthwhile doing the investment in hockey was because hockey was like the redheaded stepchild of American sports. It gave hockey enough publicity for people to watch it and go, wow, this is pretty cool. And what’s happened since Fox had hockey? It’s now almost forgotten. You’ve got to go to some tiny little channel to find it. The first-down line, I think, is now part of the game, and even though it’s expensive, the cost has come down considerably to what it was. For NASCAR, I think it’s an integral part of the enjoyment and understanding of the sport. For basketball, you could do stuff. You could—like to show how high the guys jump, to—and you’d be able to put shooting [** inaudible] in but, you know, there’s nothing that much exciting about it. And everything costs money. In these troubled economic times, dear Lord, you’re not sitting with a spare ten grand here or ten grand there to throw at some engineering kind of like device.

Vardalas:

So the three big involvements that you’ve had then with Stan and his group at Sport Vision were the hockey puck, the--

Hill:

First-down line.

Vardalas:

And NASCAR?

Hill:

Yeah.

Vardalas:

And the NASCAR is …

Hill:

It’s huge. It’s huge. It’s huge.

Vardalas:

--especially when you see a car have an accident flying through the air, and the pointer is tracking it as it’s going through the air. I mean that’s, you know--

Hill:

Yeah, yeah, it’s unbelievable.

Vardalas:

Is there anything else that you can recall about those days and these innovations?

Hill:

[interposing] Nah, the past to me is the past, and what happened is done and it’s there. And, you know, the great thing about this gig is tomorrow.

Vardalas:

Does Fox have its own R&D group internally trying to come up with what’s going to happen tomorrow?

Hill:

No, no. if you’re aware of life and if you’re aware of society around you, and you’re aware of changes that it’s not beyond the whit of mortal man to put two plus two together to come up with what it’s going to be. No, we don’t have a per se R&D group. I’ve got one guy that looks at technological advances because there’s now so many of them. Quite frankly I get too bored looking at crap. So, he has to look at it for me. We have done a pretty good job of figuring stuff out and what we want to do, and how we want to do it. And so it’s just watching what unfolds.

Vardalas:

Well, thank you so much for this interview.