LiveTV:LA: David Hill Keynote Draws Standing-Room-Only Crowd

Why the industry icon is bullish on darts, esports, and changing his approach to storytelling

On Wednesday, SVG hosted nearly 300 people from across the Los Angeles production community for three concurrent events: LiveTV:LA, Sports Imaging Forum, and Facebook Video Boot Camp. The highlight of the day, undoubtedly, was a highly entertaining keynote conversation with legendary producer David Hill, who expounded on everything from millennial viewers to the inspiration he has drawn from both videogames and his Toyota Sienna minivan to his overall view of the television industry (it’s healthy).

SVG’s Ken Kerschbaumer (right) led the keynote conversation with Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer David Hill.

“I’ve always lived my life, in terms of production, in the fact that the audience changes on a daily basis and, if you don’t change and match your production to what is in the zeitgeist, you lose,” said Hill to the standing-room-only crowd. “The only thing that television’s really got going for it — successful television — is [that it] creates an emotional bond between what you’re doing in your production and the audience. If you don’t have that emotional bond, you don’t have anything.”

Throughout the conversation, the often irreverent but always brilliant Hill elaborated on the inspiration he has drawn from his own life: most notably, his family. Watching his children engage with videogames and interact with their mobile devices, he sought to create television that, more than simply entertaining, actively engaged the viewer through graphics. And, in one of his more comical tangents, Hill described how the experience of buying a Toyota Sienna minivan influenced his decision to rethink the traditional methods of producing NFL football.

“I went through and pulled stuff out of the game [production] that had been in there just because it had been there for the past three decades,” he explained. “At the end of the season, [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell rang up and said, listen, I think what you guys did this year was absolutely fantastic; what did you do? I said, it wasn’t what I did; it’s what I took out. The Toyota Sienna story, to me, is that you’ve got to constantly, especially now, analyze what you’re doing and the way you do things virtually every week because the game is changing so dynamically [and] so quickly.”

With a career that has spanned three continents, Hill launched both Sky Sports and Fox Sports; served as executive producer for the Academy Awards, the Super Bowl, and American Idol; and is currently — through his production company, Hilly Inc. — co-promoting professional darts alongside Barry Hearn’s Professional Darts Corp. (PDC).

“To have the opportunity to work for David Hill, get to know him, become his friend, has been one of the great thrills of my life,” said former Fox Sports executive Jack Simmons, who introduced Hill’s keynote conversation. “This is the man who built Sky Sports; he built Fox Sports; he’s produced American Idol; he produced the Academy Awards; he’s done it all. He’s got his own production company now, and he refuses to slow down.”

And Hill doesn’t see the television business slowing down any time soon, either. Citing a 1998 consumer survey conducted by then NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue indicating that only 2% of NFL fans had seen a game live, Hill explained the importance of television in growing the next generation of fans: “Television is vital, absolutely vital, and not so much in keeping the consumer base entertained [but in] attracting new fans.”

In closing, he recalled a panel discussion he took part in at the University of Colorado where his fellow panelists predicted the imminent death of network television. Hill had the perfect response.

“If we were holding this little séance in 1960,” he told them, “you would say that AM radio is going to go and the movie theaters were going to close down, because your entire argument is predicated on the fact that FM radio is a better delivery system than AM radio and why would people want to go to movie theaters when they can watch on this thing called television in their own home? The economics change. The movie-theater business is doing quite well last time I checked, and the AM radio business has changed, but it’s still viable. Network television is always going to remain viable because, in whatever form it’s viewed, it still is this mass medium, which is the only way an advertiser can reach the consumer.”

The Sports Imaging Forum and LiveTV:LA were made possible by Title Sponsors Sony and LiveU; Diamond Sponsors Aspera, Canon, and TVU Networks; Gold Sponsors AJA, Grass Valley, Intelsat, JVCKENWOOD, and Riedel; and Event Sponsors SOS Global Express, Telescope, and VER. 

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