Network Nine has received government permission to air its share of National Rugby League (NRL) matches on digital station Gem in non-rugby league states.
The change takes effect immediately, allowing Nine to air three matches a week on Gem in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Regional affiliate WIN will follow suit in its Victorian, South Australian, Western Australian and Tasmanian licence areas.
Prior to this recent change NRL matches aired in the viewing dead zone, usually after midnight, making it difficult for league fans to follow the sport unless they ponied up for a Foxtel subscription.
With NRL matches on the Federal Government's anti-siphoning list, ministerial approval is required for free-to-air broadcasters to show listed sports on digital-only channels.
This move brings the NRL roughly into line with the AFL, where four matches a week, from this season onwards, will be broadcast on 7mate into Queensland and New South Wales.
From this Friday, the Gem free-to-air broadcast schedule will be as follows: on Friday nights there will be a live match shown at 7.30pm in Victoria, 7pm in SA and 4.30pm in WA, followed by a delayed match two hours later; on Sunday afternoon the match of the day will screen, delayed, at 4pm in all markets. Broadcasts will continue to be shown only on Channel Nine in Queensland and New South Wales.
It remains to be seen whether the broadcast on Gem will be in true HD.