Rugby Australia's "fantasy has become a reality" with a $100 million broadcast deal set to push Super Rugby on free-to-air television for the first time in its 25-year history.
Now officials are poised to announce the Super Rugby season structure, with Super Rugby AU set to kick off on the weekend of February 19-20 before a trans-Tasman crossover with New Zealand franchises to follow.
A three-year broadcast agreement with Nine Entertainment, with a two-year option to extend, could pit the ACT Brumbies against the Queensland Reds in a primetime free-to-air slot on a Saturday night.
Rugby union is set to become subscription streaming service Stan's first foray into the sporting arena as part of the agreement with Nine. The landmark partnership will end Rugby Australia's 25-year long relationship with Foxtel.
Nine will broadcast Wallabies Tests from 2021 as well as Super Rugby AU matches played on Saturday nights and the competition finals, which will see the likes of the ACT Brumbies on show to a larger potential audience than ever before.
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The remainder of Super Rugby AU matches will be live and ad-free on new streaming platform Stan Sport, alongside Super W and all Super Rugby Aotearoa matches.
Stan Sport will be launched as an add-on to the existing subscription service, and will stream the remainder of Rugby Championship games, Wallaroos Tests, and inbound Tests for Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina.
"It has been a busy time and hopefully by the end of this week we'll have a lot of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in place for 2021," Brumbies chief executive Phil Thomson said.
"It's a very good result for Australian rugby to have the free-to-air component, we can tap into an audience we haven't tapped into for the past 20-plus years. It's a great opportunity for us to showcase our game to people of Australia through free-to-air content.
"It opens up other opportunities on the commercial front for partners for more exposure on that platform. There will be positives for everyone.
"It's a tough environment out there at the moment, so anything additional you can offer your commercial partners is a bonus. It's something we'll be able to capitalise on and give a good return for our partners."
Stan will also broadcast every match from the NSW's Shute Shield and Queensland's Hospital Challenge Cup as officials look to capitalise on the tribalism of club rugby fans, with four games throughout each season and one match per finals weekend also shown on Nine.
New Zealand and South Africa's provincial competitions also form part of Rugby Australia's broadcast offering, giving fans a smorgasbord of rugby action with Nine chief executive Hugh Marks confident the "ground breaking" deal will be profitable for the network.
It is believed Rugby Australia walked away from more money from Foxtel to sign a deal with Nine, which now has to be signed off by the SANZAAR Unions.
"This is a more significant deal than we have had in the past," Rugby Australia chief executive Rob Clarke said.
"The free to air exposure four our commercial partners and for our Super Rugby clubs in particular, for the first time in 25 years, will be very significant and will help to underpin the economics of the game over this next period.
"We've been going through a restructure of the game and it has seen us take significant cost out of this organisation at Rugby Australia, in partnership with our Super Rugby colleagues who have also been re-engineering their business.
"We are looking to free up as much capital as possible to put back into the grassroots of the game. It's a whole of game solution.
"It's been a tough year for everybody in business and certainly sport. This is a critical part of the mix, because it's such a significant investment.
"That investment comes at a time when the game is positioned extremely positively. As Dave Rennie has constantly outlined, this it the beginning of a journey.
"We have the ability to secure our talent for the future, particularly the emerging talent that will form the foundation for future Wallabies success. It couldn't come at a better time."