Postcard from Las Vegas: Patrick Delany, Peter V’landys, Paul Kent, Webby and Weidler


Patrick Delany and Peter V’landys on what success for the NRL and Kayo Sports looks like

The perspective on what success looks like for the NRL in its Las Vegas “experiment” is a little different depending on where you are.

Mediaweek is lucky to be on the ground in Nevada where it all seems pretty exciting. That’s not just a buzz created by a free plane ticket and flashy hotel room. There’s real excitement too amongst the many thousands of fans who have paid their hard-earned cash to travel halfway around the world to watch four teams go into battle this weekend.


The Fox League studio set up on the Vegas strip

There’s plenty of hype…but it’s not all exaggerated.

Foxtel Group CEO Patrick Delany has been actively stoking the enthusiasm fire. Speaking on the site of the Fox Sports outdoor studio before the taping of the first episode of NRL 360, he told Mediaweek:

“This has been a very clever move by the NRL on many levels.

“Every season you need something new to excite people. Sometimes people get lulled into forgetting how good something is. You do something to restart the League. Last year we had the Dolphins. This year, if nothing else, this Las Vegas season launch has caused extraordinary press and chatter amongst sports fans in Australia.

If you are going to do it anywhere, Las Vegas is the place to do it. It might get lost in Los Angeles or New York. This is the world capital of entertainment. From what I can see, we are the big thing here this week.”

Streaming world: Patrick Delany with Julian Ogrin

How much did it all cost?

It’s been called a loss leader for the NRL and perhaps Fox Sports and Kayo Sports too. The NRL put a figure of a couple of million as their exposure. What about the Foxtel Group?

When you look at our businesses we are as good as the sum of the parts. You can’t divide one piece when looking at profit. When the League comes to Vegas, we are the primary broadcaster with both of the games live. We would not spare the whip. We have a full production team for the games and our shows – NRL 360 and The Matty Johns Show.”

When asked about the mooted global investment opportunities facing the NRL, Delany said he understands the potential of another NZ team. Given the size of the contingent in LA from the UK he is also aware of the turnaround possibility for the UK Super League.

“I often read about these things in the newspapers and then ring Peter for an update.”

Matty Johns with NRL stars for the live audience

Foxtel Group’s biggest week of the year?

The cash register should be ringing this week for Kayo Sports and Fox Sports. NRL now, F1 this weekend, cricket now and AFL next week.

“It is all about getting subscribers,” said Delany. “We have Foxtel subscribers, and we are building traction with streaming subscribers. With Kayo Sports we are pushing into markets who don’t consider a product like Foxtel.

“News like this Las Vegas season launch is what we need to increase peoples’ consideration about subscribing or resubscribing.”

Delany and V’landys onstage

Kayo Sports’ new tier

Kayo Sports recently simplified its tiers and now offers 4K coverage for an additional charge. “These are the first NRL games to be streamed in 4K,” said Delany. “We have been doing 4K on Foxtel since 2018. It took a lot of engineering to achieve this. That’s part of this year’s development plan and there is more to come.”

Real winner in Las Vegas

After Mediaweek spoke with Delany, he spoke with Peter V’landys for the live audience ahead of the NRL 360 record. He asked the ARL chairman what a win looks like for him.

“The win isn’t so much the crowd that goes to the game. We are expecting at least 40,000-50,000 which will be a spectacular result. There’s been a lot of hard work done by Andrew Abdo [NRL CEO] and his team behind the scenes.

The other success will be how many people watch this on [US channel] Fox Sports 1. It has a [potential] audience of over 100m in the US. We want that to be the start of a game on every week on Fox Sports 1 for the next six months.”

Delany also offered V’landys the chance to endorse Kayo which he accepted: “It’s the new model to watch the game. You can watch it anywhere on any device. It’s the future.”

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo with V’landys and the power behind the throne – Rachel Kramer who runs the NRL/ARL executive office

Las Vegas pre-game activity

For the fans and the industry partners, there’s been plenty of activity leading up to the games. Public events included fan events in downtown Las Vegas, Vegas 9’s Rugby League Festival, a golf tournament, and plenty more.

Fox Sports is broadcasting episodes of NRL 360 and The Matty Johns Show from an elaborate set up in a corner of the Hilton Hotel Resorts World compound on the Las Vegas strip.

Andrew Voss has been juggling media commitments – juggling crosses back to his SEN 1170 Sydney breakfast show and filming for this weekly Fox Sports show The Fan.

Happily, we also spotted rugby league rock and roll correspondent, author and entrepreneur Steve Mascord in the crowds. He’s in town filing for his multiple outlets and working on coverage of the Vegas 9’s Rugby League Festival for

Paul Kent and Buzz on the NRL 360 set

Paul Kent welcomed back, Buzz jeered

The first episode of NRL 360 for the year was broadcast Thursday night in Australia. It featured the very low-key return of Paul Kent to the show. While Kent is keen to downplay any highlighting his absence, the audience was very appreciative to have him back. When co-host Braith Anasta introduced Kent, there was a big cheer from the audience. Before the episode started, there were plenty of interjections of “welcome back Kenty”. Getting a selfie with the NRL analyst was also high on the agenda for some of the audience as they filed into the set.

Kent’s reception was different to how fans greeted Phil Rothfield. “Welcome back Buzz,” said Anasta. The crowd jeered!

Delany and V’landys with Fox Sports’ James Hooper (left) and Dan Ginnane

Spirit of Hunter S Thompson invoked

There’s plenty being written about the Las Vegas weekend and there’s still two days before the first player crosses the white line.

Nine’s Danny Weidler has gone on the record with “Las Vegas is offically a Rugby League town.” He delved deeper into Vegas week on the LiSTNR podcast Footy Talk during a discussion with Michael Chammas and Adam Peacock.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Andrew Webster is worth reading for his column Fear and mothering in Las Vegas. He invoked the spirit of gonzo journalism:

Amid the excitement of opening the season in Las Vegas this Sunday (AEDT), we’ve read about Papua New Guinea becoming the NRL’s 18th team; the North Sydney Bears coming back; the NRL buying the embattled UK Super League; the NRL setting up its own US Super League; and something or other about the season ahead.

In rugby league parlance, it’s been a dead-set proposal-a-thon.

What is the NRL thinking? Vegas. Vegas?! The ultimate adults’ playground some compare to Vietnam because you never come out as the same person who went in.

Has anyone from the NRL read Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? Or watched The Hangover? Or tried to play rugby league with a head full of mescaline let alone count to 21? Evidently not.

See also: Talent airlift: Fox League stars prepare for NRL Round 1 Las Vegas double-header

Mediaweek partnered with Fox Group for the visit to Las Vegas

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