Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fox's David Hill Talks NASCAR

Veteran reporter Dustin Long has been doing a great job of interviewing several NASCAR TV executives in advance of the 2009 Sprint Cup season. This time, he spoke with the very colorful head of Fox Sports, David Hill.

This Aussie has been having fun in America with sports on TV for a very long time. His team of Mike Joy, Darrrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond were a great shot-in-the-arm for NASCAR at a time when the sport really needed it.

Here are some excerpts from Long's interview with Hill:

Long: There are a lot of people, particularly on the East Coast, who do not like the later starting times, do those later starting times still work for you and Fox?

Hill: I would like to see the races later in the day. That’s just simply because the later you go, the greater HUT (houses using televisions) levels you have. The greater HUT levels, the greater ratings you’re going to get. It stands to reason that at one o’clock on the afternoon that a lot of people are out and about and then as the day gets later and later, obviously more people go in. I would like to see late afternoon starts with the checkered around a quarter till eight (to lead into prime-time programming). I have communicated this on any given number of times to NASCAR, which was fallen on deaf ears.

Long: How do you make the broadcasts economically viable for your network when you’re paying so many millions in broadcast rights fees?.

Hill: It is tough for us. We are a free-to-air broadcast network. Anyone with this new little digital box can get our signal for free and he can sit and watch it. Our revenue comes from one thing and that’s advertisements. So, the deal is and this is the deal America and television have had for 50 years, we’ll give you an hour of entertainment but we’re going to take back 15 to 20-odd minutes so that we can pay the bills. We are dependent on supply and demand. In the good years, there is a huge amount for a limited supply. In the bad years, there is very limited demand for what is obviously a huge supply. So far this year we are in much better shape than I thought we would be. How it’s going to go, I have no idea but it is something that I have definitely got my fingers crossed on. I can’t say. I’d like to remain totally optimistic and thus far that optimism is warranted.’’

Long: What about your announcing team?

Hill: “As important as Darrell Waltrip was to the sport when he was a driver, he’s 10 times more important to the sport right now. Darrell’s ability to communicate is very, very rare. He’s a natural teacher, and he’s a natural enthusiast and he’s naturally passionate about it and he feels sympathy for the drivers. There are a lot of announcers, especially when they quit who feel jealous of the guys who are still doing it, but Darrell doesn’t do that. When we put the team together, we had no idea they were going to be as potent and as strong as they were.

These are some good comments from Hill on several topics that we have discussed over the past two seasons. Please feel free to add your opinion on these topics. Click here to read Long's column in full. Thanks for stopping by.


Anonymous said...

JD- Are you REALLY sure that was an interview with a FOX executive? I mean, those were real answers to questions.

Dot said...

Is this guy serious? Later start times? Run right up to primetime? Only so we can lose any chance of a postrace interview if the race runs longer.

Back in the day (1990s), I loved that the races started around 10am PST. Gave me the rest of the day to live my life. However, a true race fan will watch anytime.

Anonymous said...

David Hill has done more to hurt sports on television than just about anyone. Instead of just showing the sport, it's now become just a large infomerical with loads of useless gimmicks.

I mean, alone he has contributed to: the glowing puck, "Scooter" (a talking baseball, "Digger", loads of useless graphics on tv, large amounts of product placements, pushing back of all sports telecasts (not just NASCAR) to get the "west coast", and loads of other garbage. But, then again, his boss has pretty much ruined the media in general.

Anonymous said...

the 'moon phases' comment was a hoot. I'm guessing that may have been about when Easter falls since they always have that off...but who knows, lol.

In any case, perhaps his start time request has fallen on deaf ears because for once, NASCAR is doing what the *fans* want. I do like his honesty though. He should be aware that the digital box doesn't solve everything for people too far from the signals...but that's a *whole* nuther topic...

Sophia said...

Dot and anon

Agreed about the later start times. This man is CLUELESS and has obviously never watched a tv broadcast from home with ENDLESS comemrcials/gum wrapper cautions and channel roulette when other shows run over/need to start.

Color me not impressed. Sorry.

I'd like races to start earlier...they act like nobody eats dinner or has a life outside NASCAR on Sunday.


MANY MANY problems in this state with digital signals, weaker than OTA signals folks had for decades...those in the boonies are losing home town news/local stations. Insanity being pushed upon us but back to the Blog.

majorshouse said...

Is this guy kidding? I would much rather see earlier start times that later, and let's get rid of the useless crap on all sports telecasts and just get back to basics. Like Ihave said before, less is more.

Anonymous said...

As stated here before, Hill doesn't get it. The majority of NASCAR fans are still on the east coast, no matter anyone says, and they want the earlier times because it allows families to sit and have dinner, without the race on or without having to miss the end entirely. You have the please the majority of your viewers or you won't have any left.

Anonymous said...

This was a good interview. Fox seems to have a knack for recognizing talent in their sport shows. Their NFL group is also great.

Mr. Hill's job is measured by what he does and if he advances the goals of the organization (ratings). And he does that. Their pre-race show is the highest rated of the 3 networks. NASCAR on Fox is the most watched sport show for the races Fox broadcasts-and they have to compete with March Madness.

No network has 100% approval. What the goal is to have the highest ratings possible so they can get the highest revenue for commercials. So far David Hill is bring the big bucks in year in and year out.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad FOX stands by NASCAR and the COT program. I don't know the circumstances of the new contract, but I felt that FOX was ripped off by only have 13 Cup races and no Nationwide events. They always stood by the Busch Series when airing their races.

I know that Hill was speaking from a business standpoint, but he seems to miss the fact that we would rather the races be over by 4 or 4:30, not starting around then. That concept works in the NFL, when the "game of the week" typically airs at 4:15p/et, but that does not work with NASCAR. Why would anyone want to wait around till 4:30? Even the West Coast fans would rather be watching at 10a/pt instead of waiting till 1 or 2. I highly doubt that the ratings are that different with a couple hours' worth of time change.

Anonymous said...

That article was painful to read.

The COT is awful, later start times are not good, more commercials are terrible, and on screen gimmicks do not make a sporting telecast enjoyable.

Anonymous said...

This blog gives all an opportunity to express opinions, but all opinions don't reflect facts.

David Hill is not just an idea machine. Everything that is done with multi-billion networks is studied, gone through committies, and most of all, they are tested. There are countless scientific surveys done on everything. Millions of dollars are spent on these scientific surveys. Things at the network are not done on a whim.

As far as preferences on race times, I prefer the later time. We go to church in the morning, spend the afternoon at the park or the beach or in the back yard with the kids, and then are ready to settle down at the end of the afternoon to watch a race.

Anonymous said...

We agree with the sentiments of most who responded to this "interview". Man oh man, a blind person could hit those "softball" questions out of the park!
Frankly, we're surprised hill could name any of his announcers.
He has made FOX an all gimmick and no substance entity. He bemoans the business model of the free, commercially sponsored American television industry, as though its a reality suddenly foisted on him.
Digger, glow-pucks,animated robot football players,annoying sound effects. But not WORD ONE about the fans.
He says all you need to know in what he doesn't say

Anonymous said...

My feeling is the late start times are the largest single issue with falling TV ratings and people actually going to the races.

My family stopped going to multiple races simply because the late start times meant that much more time hanging around at the track and getting home at 2am Monday mornings.

We also watch a lot few races due to late starts. By 3-4pm Sundays we are doing other things. Dale JR keeps bringing up late starts as an issue with traditional fans. he is correct.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hill obviously doesn't recognize that the people who attend and view the races are "working people" who need to
get home and/or to bed early. I
wonder if he has ever done a study
to see how many TVs are turned off
early on the east coast.

alex said...

Having the races end close to primetime just means more of the 5 minute postrace show, or none at all because the network leaves to show AFHV instead.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hill reminds me of the bureaucrats in Washington, form a committee, do a study, put the blinders on, dont listen to the people affected, make a decision based on phony data than "walla"! The world is a better place to be, give me a break!

I hate late start times and because of that more times than not I miss races.

My life is not predicated on some high priced survey telling me the best time to watch a race. My opinion, and I know it doesnt mean anything to the powers to be go back to the good ole days early starts.

It never ceases to amaze me when the majority of fans prefer early starts they are ignored, and NASCAR wonders why the sport is dying.

Sorry Mr. Hill perhaps you should try taking a survey of real fans and see what they think. I know, I know its all about the almighty $$$$$$$$$$$$

Anonymous said...

Mr Hill is correct. Fox has the highest ratings, so the REAL fans are tuning in to his network to watch the races.

I agree surverys are not enough, but when you lead in ratings, the sponsors are happy to pay the prime rate for commercials becasue they are getting their money's worth.

GinaV24 said...

"Start the races LATER". What a stupid idea. Unless they are going to go to all "night" races then the last thing I want to see as a fan going to the race is a later start time. I like being able to sit and enjoy the damn sunshine at the race. Plus, I agree, the later start times mess up the primetime stuff and we get cheated out of the post-race stuff. 2 hours of nonsense for pre-race and 5 minutes of post-race is just ridiculous. Plus all the idiotic crap that they do instead of showing real racing has made it such a drag to watch on TV.

Anonymous said...

Matt said "The majority of NASCAR fans are still on the east coast, no matter anyone says, and they want the earlier times."

I wonder if these are documented facts or Matt's opinion. (which of course he is entitled to)

It would be interesting to see the numbers on both topics.

I prefer the earlier start times in the Spring and Fall months when the weather here is mild. Later start times in the hot Summer months (usually in the 100+ range) allow for outdoor activities in the cooler mornings and then indoors for the hotter times of the day.

As I said before it would be interesting to see the numbers on where the viewers are located.

It seems like anywhere you go around here, people know about NASCAR and have a favorite driver.

Harry in Calif

Anonymous said...

I liked Mr Hill's candor on a couple of topics. On his announcing team he mentioned how he gets complaints from English teachers about Larry Mc and how he mangles the English language. Mr Hill said he loves Larry and would not have him change.

Nice to see the boss has his back. (Even though Larry does drive me nuts.)

Anonymous said...

WOW! What a different way to think about racing.That interview told me much more than I ever could imagine.Mr Hill has no idea what the fans want and it's easy to see why his network has so much FLUFF and is really hard to watch.I still have VCR tapes of the Bob, Benny, and Ned days and I know going back to that could never happen, but a shift in that direction is what I believe most fans want. Also most of my friends who are fans mute DW and don't agree of his assessment of his value.

Anonymous said...

When DW (Jaws) was driving I called him everything but Mr., but I have come to enjoy him and am still fascinated by how much he lets everyone else talk. I am absolutely convinced that he loves the sport and appreciates all it has done for him. If you paid close attention to what he said last year, DW frequently knew what was going on or going to happen before most of the news media.

Anonymous said...

I'm still amazed at how many people like the early start times. They drive me crazy. You can't get anything done on Sunday if the race starts at 1pm Eastern.

I much prefer the 3-4pm Eastern starts so I at least have some time to get things done on Sunday. Every Sunday is arranged around the race and there is no worse feeling than the race being over at 3 or 4 in the afternoon...

The Saturday night races are the best though - although I understand the interference with local tracks.

red said...

one part of the "early vs late start times" discussion that is somewhat overlooked is the experience of the fan at the track (as opposed to the fan watching on tv.) a later start time means a much later sunday night drive home with work facing the tired fan on monday morning. of course, the race fan could occasionally take monday off to stay overnight in a hotel near the track after the race on sunday night and drive home or sleep in. with the current state ofthe economy, i don't see that happening. night racing on saturday can solve a chunk of that problem -- as can earlier start times on sunday.

mr hill's job, however, is to focus on the broadcast of the race, not the experience of the fan attending the race. but i still feel he's off-base in his comments about the "HUTs." certainly, more people watch tv as the evening approaches but race fans watch tv to watch the race and so don't fit into his equation. the idea of pushing the checkers up against sunday prime time is frightening, to say the least: we already saw how nascar fares in that situation and it ain't pretty!

what i'd like to see is a consistent green flag time, week in and week out. and i'd like to see that happen earlier on sundays, certainly no later than 1PM. and that means GREEN FLAG at 1PM, not pre-race.

(and as a longtime hockey fan, i have to say that the glowing puck was the single worst concept ever presented on sports broadcast tv and the collective mindset which thought it was a great idea deserve a major head slap!)

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of Mr Hill's comments.

Also, as fan on football, I love the virtual 1st and 10 down line on the field. It started with Fox under Mr Hill's tenure and is now used at all networks. At one point Fox almost got rid of the line because of the cost, but of course they decided to keep it. The rest is history.

Anonymous said...

The 1st and 10 line was actually introduced by ESPN in 1998, while being created by a private company. At onr time, Fox was the only network to not use the line, while CBS and Disney did.