Steve Crawley on the summer of cricket and upcoming NRL season

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“Speeding up anything is good as long as we can understand it.”

The last 12 months has been a historically difficult time to be in sports broadcasting but after a successful summer of cricket and with the NRL season fast approaching Mediaweek spoke with the executive director of Fox Sports Steve Crawley about the success of the summer and looking forward to the winter sports.

Summer of Fox Cricket

Crawley admits that last year looked like it was going to be a catastrophe due to Covid-19 but he thinks that sport was a tonic that was evident by record numbers in NRL, AFL, and cricket.

It made people feel better and there was some good to come out of the rubble. It went beyond the football seasons into the summer of cricket and the series was so good we had record numbers.”

With a record number of people watching from home during the pandemic, Crawley admitted that as a television producer he hopes the audiences come back for more.

“It was our third year of doing the cricket and you get better the more you do something. I noticed that our coverage was better, so I am hoping that was the making of Fox Cricket.”

International cricket vs Big Bash League

When asked about the secret to balancing international cricket with the Big Bash League, Crawley said that the key was having two different teams.

“You get one team for Test matches, One Day Internationals, and International T20 and then another team for the Big Bash League. The commentators spread across both but the producers and directors focus on the format, so they compete against one another. It is really healthy and brings the best out of them.”

NRL in 2021

Crawley said that he was pretty happy with how things went in 2020 as he rolls out a Fox League lineup for 2021 led by Matty Johns and Yvonne Sampson alongside Mal Meninga, and fellow premiership winners Cooper Cronk, Michael Ennis, Gorden Tallis, Greg Alexander and Braith Anasta.

In 2021, Fox League will feature Yvonne Sampson on Thursday Night League and Super Saturday, Jess Yates on Friday Night FootballHannah Hollis on Sunday Ticket and Lara Pitt working across game day and magazine programming throughout the season.

During the game commentators Andrew Voss, Dan Ginnane, Warren Smith, Matt Russell and Brenton Speed will call every second each week.

Returning in 2021 will be NRL 360, The Late Show with Matty Johns, Sunday Night with Matty Johns, Big League Wrap and The Fan.

Crawley said that he was happy with the NRL coverage during Covid-19 and felt like he took some useful lessons from it about what the audience wants.

“We found with post-games and pre-games that people really enjoyed the fact we were sticking with the game. Instead of breaking off to do something else we stayed and analysed the game and spoke to the players a lot more, and I think that’s what the audience wants.

“Matty Johns is different because you can go back to the ground and talk to Kalyn Ponga or Cameron Munster he is that good of an interviewer.”

One of the biggest changes on the Fox League schedule is the addition of a new show for Matty Johns. Face-to-face with Matty Johns will lead Wednesday nights with Johns sitting down with the biggest names in sport and society following NRL 360.

“He is not going to do their life story every week, he is going to pick a day, or a week or a moment in their life to talk to them about.”

New NRL rules

Similar to last year the NRL has made some changes to the rules to increase the speed of the game and heighten entertainment value, Crawley has supported these moves.

“No doubt that it makes it a better TV product. Peter V’landys knows and grew up with the game and is a very clever man which we have seen with what he has done with horse racing. When he makes changes there is a pretty good chance that they are going to work.

“Speeding up anything is good as long as we can understand it. We need to work out better ways to explain to our audience when there is a six again and why that is.”

Production changes in 2021

Crawley said that he usually doesn’t talk about innovations because there is a chance, they won’t work but said that there will be some improvements from last year’s coverage.

“We improved the Fox Rover, so it gets around better and we have a new camera that’s getting closer to the field of play.

If people are paying for something that they could otherwise get for free then you have got to be doing things better. You have got to have a better commentary team, you have got to be doing better production and you have got to have better producers. I am not saying that we have all those things but when we get up in the morning that is what we are aiming to do and based on our numbers I think some people agree with that.”

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