Aussie TV prefers Friends over All Blacks
For most Australians, the Rugby World Cup will start late tomorrow night - three hours and 45 minutes tardy to be precise - because the Nine Network prefers to show a repeat of Friends on one channel and Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders on another.
The first game of the year's biggest sporting tournament - featuring the All Blacks, the favourites, against the fast-and-courageous minnows Tonga - kicks off at 6.30pm Sydney time after an opening ceremony in Auckland.
At that time, Nine's main channel will show A Current Affair, then The Big Bang Theory, then in Sydney will turn to live coverage of the rugby league finals match between Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra Dragons at 7.30pm.
But even with two other channels on which to show the rugby union live, Nine will not, and those without pay TV will have to seek it out at the pub or with friends of their own.
It made a commercial decision to delay the match until 9.45pm in Sydney and Brisbane, immediately after the league finishes, and until 1.40am on Saturday in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth - after the conclusion of Two and a Half Men, The Mentalist, two episodes of CSI and the rugby league.
That is despite it now being allowed to show preliminary Rugby World Cup games on either of its two digital channels, if they don't involve the Wallabies.
As part of the yet-to-be finalised changes to the anti-siphoning rules governing sport on television, the communications minister, Stephen Conroy, declared an interim arrangement late last year.
It requires the Rugby World Cup finals and any Australian game to be shown on the broadcaster's main channel, in this case on Nine. But unlike the old rules, it allows all other games to be shown on its digital channels, Go! and Gem.
Yet while Fox Sports will be broadcasting live from Auckland at 6.30pm on Friday, Gem will be showing the penultimate episode of the tenth series of Friends, which ceased production in 2004, while Go! will be airing the 11-year-old animated tale of ''intergalatic intrigue'' featuring Scooby-Doo.
While advertising rates are much higher on the main channels than on digital ones, Nine decided to ''give it a big audience on the primary channel at 9.45pm, rather than a small audience on a digital channel live''.
Sydney Morning Herald