So says Bryan Curtis on the Ringer.com:
In December 1993, Rupert Murdoch did what our tech overlords are allegedly going to do in a few years. Murdoch wrote a $1.6 billion check to drive eyeballs to his new media company. A few weeks later, Murdoch paid a smaller but still huge sum to hire CBS’s John Madden. The rise of Fox Sports wasn’t destined to be an underdog tale, like the ESPN origin story. Murdoch was exploiting the vulnerabilities of the old networks as a way of gaining his own credibility in the United States.
If the rise of Fox Sports was just about money, or if the product had turned into a haunted mansion like Fox News, we could leave it at that. But Murdoch’s lieutenants at Fox Sports had a creative side. They thought TV football had gotten stale — “boring as shit,” one of them said in an Aussie accent. “Fox-izing” football meant the pregame show would be about laughs and relationships as much as it would be about sports. It meant the score and clock would be on the screen at all times. It meant Buck, who was all of 25 years old, would call the first football game of his life in front of a national audience.
Today, everything from Joe Buck to the Fox Box to an unrestrained Terry Bradshaw (above left with Eagles Cheis Long at February’s Super Bowl) seems normal, almost even respectable. That’s why it’s worth revisiting the nine-month period beginning in December 1993, to see how and why TV football changed forever.
This oral history consists of original quotations, some of which have been edited and condensed. The speakers’ titles occasionally change during the narrative. At the end of the ’93 NFL season, Bradshaw is an analyst on CBS’s The NFL Today; later, he’s a founding yukster of Fox NFL Sunday.
The story begins in 1993, just as the old NFL rights deals were about to expire. From his yacht, Murdoch called Jerry Jones, the newish owner of the Dallas Cowboys. Murdoch had tried to acquire NFL rights twice before, in 1987 and 1990. He felt the NFL had used him as a bogeyman to frighten the networks into paying more money. This time, Murdoch wanted to be a serious player.
As Jones recalled recently: “He said, ‘Jerry, I think I was a stalking horse last time. I’m not going to do that and be just a stalking horse.’”