As reported here last week, there is some upheaval going on on the production side of the NFL on Fox. Now it is time for some more, but not all, details (as they are not yet available).
David Hill, Fox Sports Chair and Executive Producer, has demoted lead NFL director Artie Kempner. Even more stunning for me is that Hill has also split the legendary producer/director team of Bob Stenner and Sandy Grossman. who have worked together at Fox and CBS Sports for more than four decades.
First, let's look at the Kempner demotion. Artie has been the lead director for Fox NFL games since 2003. According to sources who asked to remain anonymous, there has been a rift or some level of tension between Artie and Hill. What straw broke the camel's back is not clear, but the message cannot be clearer.
Artie, who is also the NASCAR director for Fox, has been removed from the "A" team and relegated to the "C" game. For the first half of the season, he will work with producer Fran Morrison. After the Major League Baseball season ends, Pete Macheska will take over the producer responsibilities for that broadcast crew. One source said this looked to be a move down the ladder for Macheska as well.
Rich Russo will move into the "A" team director's chair, working alongside producer Richie Zyontz. These left a hole with producer Michael Burks team. And this is where my jaw dropped while parsing the information I was gathering.
Hill has split the legendary and long-time team of Bob Stenner and Sandy Grossman. Stenner came to work at CBS in 1959, working in the mailroom. Grossman joined CBS in 1963 as an usher on a game/quiz show. Eventually they moved into sports. They became production partners working with Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier and produced their first Super Bowl (Super Bowl V) in 1971.
For 21 years, they worked with Summerall and John Madden, both at CBS and Fox. In 2002, they produced their last Super Bowl. The next year, Madden moved on to ABC and Monday Night Football. That same year, Stenner and Grossman were taken off of the A team.
This split has many people scratching their heads, as this is supposed to be Grossman's last year according to one source.
While Grossman has been teamed with Burks, Stenner is moving to a different crew, taking along analyst Brian Billick with him. Brian Baldinger is gone, recently signing a deal to work a Sunday radio package with Compass Media.
For the technical crews, this means a lot of movement, and unfortunately a lot of lost jobs. According to one source, Stenner's new director chose to replace some of Stenner's crew. Because Mike Burk's crew had been together a long time, and had originally been with Grossman, a lot of people were looking for new jobs.
This proved to be difficult as Hill ordered cost-cutting moves. Each crew was told that they had to eliminate one technical position. The production teams had to choose to eliminate a camera man or a sub mixer or a tape operator. One source said he heard that the A and B team lost three or more technical positions each. This has yet to be confirmed.
All of this ties into what one source said Hill, who returned to Fox Sports in 2007, sees as necessary to shake things up because he "wasn't happy with all of the coverage, whatever that means."
The official Fox announcement of all the changes for both production and talent is not expected until after the MLB All-Star game in July.
A Fox Spokesperson declined to provide any official comment on these changes.
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