David Hill, the influential impresario of Fox Sports who developed snazzy gimmicks that turbo-charged the presentation of TV sports, is stepping down from his senior position at 21st Century Fox.
The company said Tuesday that Hill, a longtime lieutenant of Rupert Murdoch, was leaving the company to launch his own production firm called Hilly. Fox will finance Hill’s new venture.
Fox is the midst of a generational change in leadership.
Last week, Fox’s board of directors approved the promotions of Murdoch’s two sons, Lachlan and James, into leadership roles at the company. Many of Murdoch’s long-time and trusted associates, including Fox’s Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey and, now Hill, are segueing into new roles.
Hill, a brash native of Australia, is known for his outsized personality, storytelling skills and numerous achievements that helped establish Fox as a leader in sports broadcasting. He hatched the concept for an on-screen graphic that has become a fixture in television: the ever-present box that provides game scores and time remaining.
He also developed the NFL first down graphic line, which enables viewers at home to see the yard marker, as well as the hockey glow puck. He recognized early on that NASCAR racing could be a powerhouse.
Hill has spent more than 25 years working with Murdoch. In the late 1990s, Hill ran the Fox broadcast network from Los Angeles during a turbulent period when Fox was a seat-of-the-pants organization.
“David is a dynamic and imaginative leader who has changed the experience of nearly all major sports on three continents,” Rupert Murdoch, chairman of 21st Century Fox, said in a statement.
“Whether it was launching Sky Television, the Fox network, Fox Sports, or the regional sports networks, we owe him an enormous debt for his nearly 30 years of contributions,” Murdoch said.
Hill joined the company, then called News Corp., from the Nine Network Australia in 1988. He went on to help create Eurosport, Sky Television, and Sky Sports in Great Britain.
He moved to Los Angeles in December 1993, just as Fox was shaking up the TV landscape by capturing the NFL football TV rights, which had long been held by CBS.
Loud graphics, and sizzle and pop, were hallmarks of Hill. When News Corp. partly owned DirecTV, Hill made the commute to El Segundo, where he ran entertainment for the satellite TV giant.
Hill briefly served as chairman of National Geographic channels and, during its last two seasons, he was an executive producer at Fox for “American Idol." Hill will continue working on the final season of that show.
In the statement, Hill described his Fox career as “an intensely satisfying creative period." He said he was privileged to be “part of the incredible growth of the Fox network and ancillary businesses. To be involved with something that John Madden described as ‘Fox Sport’ way back when, to what has become a domestic and global powerhouse is intensely gratifying.”
In an email, Hill said he would still consider himself part of Fox:
“I’m moving to a cottage on the lot!” he said.