Next time you're in a noisy bar and look up at the TV to check a score, raise a glass to David Hill, the former head of Fox Sports who last week moved to a new post at the network's parent company, News Corporation, focusing on programming and digital initiatives in and out of the U.S. In 1993 the native Australian—whom News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch had brought to the U.S. from his Sky Sports operation in England—made the then buccaneering bid of $395 million a season to acquire rights to NFC games. (Fox will pay $1.5 billion for the same rights beginning in 2013.) He then festooned the screen with a continuous time-and-score graphic. The TV establishment derided Hill's scoreboard, but viewers loved it, and it soon became the industry standard for all sports. It was the kind of canny wrinkle that puts the 66-year-old Hill in the pantheon of TV-sports titans, alongside ABC's Roone Arledge, CBS's Frank Chirkinian and NBC's Dick Ebersol. Says Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, "David really forced all of us to be more aggressive and to think out of the box. He was criticized for many of [his] innovations ... but in the end we all ended up utilizing almost all of them."
Under Hill the sports division grew from upstart to powerhouse—in addition to the NFC, Fox now broadcasts MLB and college football, and through its network of 20 regional affiliates has cornered the market in local baseball broadcasting. He also helped Fox Sports snare U.S. TV rights for the World Cup in 2018 and '22.
Hill never got a shot at televising the Olympics. But you can bet your torch that he would have slapped a time-and-score clock on those too.