News Corp. set to give ball to Hill

Sports post key move for Murdoch

NEW YORK — News Corp. is close to finalizing a reshuffle at the top ranks of Fox Broadcasting, involving the elevation of Fox Broadcasting Corp. chairman/CEO David Hill to a new position overseeing Fox’s worldwide sports businesses.

The position would be key, as Murdoch has repeatedly utilized the acquisition of sports broadcast rights and professional sports franchises — including the Los Angeles Dodgers — as a means of entering TV markets around the world.

Hill’s new appointment is likely to be announced along with the promotion of Jeff Shell to CEO of Fox Sports Networks. Shell, now the chief financial officer of the cable network, will replace Tony Ball who was transferred to run BSkyB recently. It’s not known how Hill will be replaced at Fox.

Hill was evasive about the exec changes when contacted Thursday, saying the rumors about such a move had been circulating for some time. He refused to confirm or deny the move and added, “The only constant at News Corp. is change.” A News Corp. spokesman declined comment.

Hill’s elevation returns the exec to a full time position in the area he loves the most, at a time when sports is more important to News than ever. The conglom recently announced plans to buy John Malone’s Liberty Media out of its 50% stake in Fox Sports Networks, which operates a series of regional sports networks around the US as well as the FX network.

Hill became chairman of Fox Broadcasting in September 1997, although he was named president of Fox TV several months earlier. He joined the network as president of Fox Sports in 1993 and retained that post even after being promoted to run the network.

As well as running Fox Broadcasting, Hill is already CEO of Fox Sports Net, the national sports cable programming service operated as part of the Fox Sports Network.

In his new job Hill will likely have more global responsibilities. Indeed, possibly as a sign of things to come, Hill is traveling to Germany Sunday to work on a new sports acquisition for a television network partly owned by News Corp.

Word of Hill’s move comes just a few days before Fox affiliates are due to meet in Chicago. Fox may want to delay announcement of Hill’s new job until after the meeting to avoid questions from affils about changes in the network’s direction.

(Richard Katz contributed to this report)