Fox Sports’ Steve Crawley in Las Vegas: Innovation, commentators, Kayo & telling the story

‘This event will go down in the 116-year history of the game as a major highlight’

Fox League

Steve Crawley

Like many on the trip to Las Vegas for the NRL, Fox Sports executive director Steve Crawley has been impressed by the traction the code has got in the week. He spoke to Mediaweek in a production room close to the Hilton Hotel outside broadcast facility on the edge of the Las Vegas Strip.

Crawley has been with Fox Sports for eight years after moving across from Nine’s Wide World of Sports. He speaks in thoughtful, measured sentences. Just the sort of person needed for one of the most critical roles within the Foxtel Group. When you ask people to pay for what they can sometimes get for free elsewhere, the product needs to shine.

“What I am most proud of is the quality of our production,” said Crawley. “That’s a combination of the commentary and the producing. We should be good at what we do because we do more than any other broadcaster in our part of the world. I am very proud of how our team has developed over the years.”

Las Vegas preparation

Crawley pointed to Fox Sports executive producer Joe Bromham for his key role in preparing Fox League for the coverage from Las Vegas. “Joe has spent a lot of time with Fox Sports America. He got to know them when they were in Australia covering the FIFA Women’s World Cup last year.

“The cooperation we have had from the Americans is quite incredible. They have given us the desk they used for the Super Bowl last month. The outdoor set we are using for our shows will be going to New Orleans for next year’s Super Bowl.

“Fox Sports 1 will be broadcasting the game to a potential audience of 100m. For Rugby League to be available in that many homes makes [ARL chairman] Peter V’landys a genius.” Crawley added quickly he knows just a portion of the available homes will turn on the game.

Patrick Delany and Peter V’landys in Las Vegas this week

Best of the best

The Foxtel Group travelling party from Australia numbers about 40. But Crawley said they are using many US-based staff. “To do a broadcast like this needs about 100 people on the ground. It will be in 4K because our CEO Patrick Delany wants the best of the best. He thinks people who pay for our subscriptions should have the best picture. To cover the game in 4K is harder, but the quality we get makes it worthwhile.” To cover sports in 4K is uncommon in the US.

Fox Sports Australia uses NEP for its outside broadcasts from the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. It’s a global business that Fox Sports also uses in Australia.

That Fox League desk was used at the Super Bowl, and the overall set is being used at Super Bowl 2025 in Los Angeles

“The NEP trucks in the US are bigger than what we have in Australia. When we did NRL 360 this week we could have five producers sitting across in one line. There are no trucks in Australia that would accommodate that. They are good trucks. The experts we are using here are so good. Even things like the lighting, which is so important, they got just right for us.

“There is no doubt this event will go down in the 116-year history of the game as a major highlight.”

See also:
Patrick Delany and Peter V’landys on what success in Los Angeles looks like for the NRL and Fox Sports

Fox League in 2024

“I don’t like talking about things until they work,” said Crawley cautioning he wouldn’t be revealing projects not completed. “What I can promise you is that we will work really hard on our commentary to make it better. We will break news and we will treat the audience as the boss.

“We have some great partners when it comes to innovation. We don’t have scientists sitting around in white jackets. We have a company in New Zealand, Virtual Eye, that is the best in the world. The company is run by New Zealand businessman Sir Ian Taylor. They also work in the US with baseball and PGA golf. They are excited about a couple of new things they are working on with us.”

Paul Kent and Buzz on the NRL 360 Las Vegas set

Fox League team

The most notable change at the dedicated rugby league channel is the return of NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent. After his first episode this week, Crawley said: “I thought his performance in his first show for the best part of a year was better than good.”

Crawley then reeled off just some of the team: “Matty Johns, Fletch and Hindy, Michael Ennis, Cooper Cronk. If we start going through them all I am worried I will miss some of them.”

Crawley said they have some really good younger talent coming along. “People who are still playing or recently finished. One of them is Cooper Johns, Matty’s son. I have to be careful about him because he could be a kid who would easily get a big head. [Laughs] Especially with his father and knowing what he’s like. He’s a real talent and he’s over here with us.

“There is a kid who plays for Melbourne and is a Queensland Origin hooker, Harry Grant. He has a wonderful career in front of him. Latrell Mitchell too is so good on television. Also the big, rugged Broncos front-rower Payne Hass. We’ve been doing some work with and he’s really keen to articulate as best he can. He’s a smart kid, looks fantastic and he’s a great footballer.”


Latrell Mitchell (right) with Tom Trbojevic on Fox League in Las Vegas

Do commentators go to all games?

“That changed a lot during Covid,” reminded Crawley. “Many of the American football commentators now live in San Diego. They have a big broadcast set up not far from where they live. They go there and call games from all around the nation and then go home to their families instead of flying across the country.

“These commentary boxes are set up with the best tech and information available. They believe they are better off doing that.”

Speaking about Australia, Crawley said: “All businesses need to be financially responsible. It is difficult though. The first reaction of course is that it can’t be as good if you are not there. But we do have people there. For football, there is always a boundary rider or the sideline person and producers.

“When we have matches on in Sydney and Melbourne I prefer we get out to the ground. We also prefer to get to the ground in other capitals too. If there is a game in Townsville or Perth then it can cost us a lot of money.


Fox Cricket team with leader Steve Crawley and new recruit David Warner last December

“The cricket is different for a Test Match where it makes sense to be there for five days. For a one-day game though we would call it from a specially fitted-out studio in Melbourne or Sydney.

“We are now building a team in Perth so we don’t have to send commentators there for AFL. For Rugby League we are also doing that for Townsville.”

Kayo Sports audience: Gut feel and data

“We are getting to know them and they are the future of our business,” said Crawley about the 1.5m subscribers to the streaming service. “In traditional television in the past, it was run on gut feeling, and what Kerry Packer thought or what Kerry Stokes thought.

“These days we are able to access data. Some of us old blokes though still have some gut feel about us too. That’s important, but it’s good to have the numbers and the data to back that up.

Kayo Sports is front of house at Fox Sports. It is revitalising everything we do as we keep up with a new and younger audience. We are constantly thinking about what will satisfy them and make them happy customers.”

How the Las Vegas games are being promoted on billboards across Las Vegas

Fox Sports: Storytellers

There is an overriding philosophy that guides what happens in every game. “We are storytellers,” said Crawley. “If we are not telling stories then we sit down and find out why the hell we aren’t.

I once had a boss who said we just go the game and point the cameras. I just looked him and shook my head. We don’t always know what the story will be when we go into a game. During the game it presents itself. It is up to you to adapt and tell that story. And better than anyone else.”

AFL gamechanger

Looking deeper into the future I asked Crawley about 2025 when Fox Footy starts calling every game. No longer taking a Seven feed when they cover a match.

“It’s a massive thing we have got coming. It’s the greatest opportunity we have ever had in AFL to expand and be better.

“At present on some nights we have the best there is setting up a game and then we have to hand over to a FTA call. We have no control over that. To be able to use our great callers like Leigh Montagna, David King, Anthony Hudson, Dwayne Russell, Mark Howard and others presents us with a great opportunity to make a bigger mark.

“In the NRL we have had the ability to call all the games since 2015. Next is the AFL’s turn.”

Top image: An estimated 5,000+ fans cram downtown Las Vegas for a pre-game launch event

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