Channel Nine has landed the biggest deal in Australian free to air television history, securing the rights to broadcast NRL matches on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at prime time and on Sunday at 4pm.
This means the number of live games shown on free to air would increase from two (currently) to four per week.
The new broadcast rights agreement is worth up to $925 million and will take effect from 2018. It also includes the rights to live streaming the games on Nine’s digital platforms.
NRL CEO Dave Smith says the deal will see the organisation regain control of the season schedule, as well as deliver a better experience for fans.
“We still have simulcast rights, pay tv, New Zealand and international television rights to be negotiated,” Smith said.
“There will be more live and free Rugby League on television — and that is what the fans want.
“We’ll be able to schedule the best games when fans want to see them and ensure clubs receive the coverage they deserve on free to air.”
The new deal means the NRL Telstra Premiership will be played over 25 weeks, instead of 26.
There will also be a new State of Origin schedule, with the second match in each series to be played on a Sunday night, culminating in a weekend of representative football which will also feature Pacific Nation Tests.
“In other words, we are preserving Origin as a marquee event of the year while minimising disruption to the Premiership,” Smith said.
In addition, international rugby league matches will be played following the completion of the premiership competition.
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