Fox Sports Chief David Hill: It's about the athlete, not the car, stupid
David Hill, 65, a married father of four, is presiding over his 18th season of the NFL on Fox. Hill was interviewed on the Fox lot in West Los Angeles and he had this to say about focusing on innate objects instead of the athlete/driver (like IndyCar is doing with their new car).
What about NASCAR? Some people think the momentum has stalled. Do you agree?
Hill: There was a serious problem about three or four years ago with the “car of tomorrow,” which everyone was talking about. They were talking about safer barriers. They were talking about HANS devices. They were talking about cars, and should it have a wing and what have you. People don’t follow auto racing to hear about widgets. The role of the driver as driver hero is why people follow the sport. No one goes out to buy a T-shirt with a photo of the crew chief on the front. And the focus, all of us are guilty: NASCAR and the broadcasters moved the focus away from the driver as hero and moved it to an inanimate object. The car. And the tires. And the veevlefitzers and the dingleflappers and, you know, straight through copper ashtrays and the ignition key and all that stuff. What we did this year, we made a conscious effort to totally back down about the car — we didn’t talk about the car. We talked about the driver. What it takes: the courage, the reflexes, the fact that they lose 12 pounds during a race through the exertion they have to put themselves through. And guess what, the ratings started to come back.
There’s another deeply psychological reason. You may never get up and throw a tight spiral. You will never drive a golf ball dead straight for 360 yards. You know you won’t be able to slam-dunk like Michael Jordan. But that instant when the light turns green, you’re just as good as Jeff Gordon. So when you think about it, everyone can drive — or 99.9 percent can drive — and so, if it’s all about driving, you think: “What could I do? Do I have the guts to do that? God, look at what he’s doing. No, I would’ve backed off.” It’s a game you’re playing in your mind all the time. I’m not educated well enough to explain what it is, but I know that that’s what I’d do, and I guarantee that that’s what a bunch of people do.
What about 3D TV for sports?
Hill: I think 3D in sports is going to be fantastic, but until we fully experiment with camera placement and cutting, I’m not sure. I’ve had long conversations about this with James Cameron, who’s a great 3D proponent. One of these days, when it becomes economically viable for us, we will get a truck and get my producers and directors and spend a month to figure this out. It might be moving a camera six inches or tilting down or tilting up and doing it again. We know that high shots don’t work. We know that it needs foreground, and we know that lateral movement improves 3D quality. And then we need to figure out, why are we using 3D? Are we using it to enhance the storytelling? Does 3D, when we start talking about NASCAR, really boost the sport by putting the camera six feet above the track, so you’ve got the cars coming straight at you? Is that going to move the needle? We don’t know. But I believe that there has to be a lot of legwork to find the optimum of where the camera should be. I would love to have the luxury of time and money to fiddle around and come up with optimum camera placements for baseball. We know baseball looks thrilling — we’ve done an All-Star Game in 3D, and shots of the pitcher looked terrific. But we need to do a bit more, and whether or not the demand is there is unclear. All I do know is, I’m not going to do it on my dime.