In what is described as a ‘landmark’ deal, matches will be shown free to air for the first time in the competition’s 26-year history, creating significant new levels of exposure for the sport.
Leeds Rhinos’ first game of the 2022 season sees them host Warrington Wolves in front of the Channel 4 cameras on Saturday, February 12 and a week later Hull FC entertaining defending champions St Helens (both 12.30 kick-off) will be the second of the broadcaster’s exciting new schedule.
The remaining eight games will include two play-off fixtures.
Sky Sports have always had exclusive rights to live top-flight games in the summer era but, as part of a reduced deal for 2022 and 2023, Super League were this time given chance to take 10 games elsewhere. Super League say the 2021 season saw record viewing figures with more games than ever attracting more than 200,000 live viewers.
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However, the Betfred Challenge Cup final, which was televised live on BBC1 in July, attracted a peak audience of 1.1m, highlighting the greater potential of free-to-air television. Carter said: “We were all disappointed with that [Sky deal financially] and it wasn’t a great outlook for the sport.
“But I said at the time that the fact we will be able to put free-to-air games on has a massive value to us, not necessarily in pound notes but in exposure for our players, first and foremost, for our game and, ultimately, our sponsors.
“This now is great news. It’s really positive. [Super League chief commercial officer] Rhodri Jones has done a fantastic job getting a national broadcaster to the table and now is our opportunity to really showcase our event to a wider audience.
“There can’t be any downside for me in this. It just gives us a massive opportunity to bring positive things to rugby league which we’ve all been yearning for for a number of years.
“You can’t put a price on the intangible benefits: it’s literally a free opportunity to get in front of masses of eyeballs on a Saturday afternoon.
“We now really need everybody to get behind it.
“I can’t wait to see that first game in February. This is the first foot through the door. Let’s embrace what Channel 4 want to do with the sport: there’ll be fresh voices on the TV and I’m pretty sure they have some fresh innovation behind what they want to do and it is national exposure for everybody involved in the game.
“Hopefully, come the end of the next TV deal, we’ve another player in the market, who really enjoys what we can bring to them in terms of viewing figures.”