The broadcaster’s decision to show 10 live Super League games in each of the next two seasons has been hailed as a real coup for the competition.
It is the first time it will be showcased live on free-to-air television in its 26-year history and – situated in an ideal slot on Saturday afternoon – is yet another new avenue for people to watch rugby league next year.
Indeed, the 2022 season will see more live coverage of the sport than ever before with almost 200 fixtures already cemented in.
Main broadcaster Sky Sports – who allowed Super League to explore taking 20 games elsewhere as part of their latest two-year deal that starts next term – are committed to 66 live matches.
The BBC will show eight Betfred Challenge Cup ties – including the women’s final, as well as the men’s final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – plus all 61 games in the Rugby League World Cup next autumn.
Premier Sports, meanwhile, are televising at least 40 matches as part of their new subscription deal with the Betfred Championship which also includes secondary Challenge Cup rights.
The RFL will continue to broadcast games, including League 1 and Women’s Super League, via its Our League app.
But Super League, who yesterday announced their full fixture list for the 2022 campaign, linking with Channel 4 is clearly something which has lifted spirits around the sport.
There had been fears for the future of rugby league following the pandemic and a reduced deal with Sky but Pearson – the former Hull City owner and Leeds United commercial director – is optimistic following this latest development.
“It is something new and vibrant for the game,” he told The Yorkshire Post, with Hull hosting champions St Helens in Channel 4’s second game on Saturday, February 19 (12.30pm).
“I think it will definitely bring new spectators to the sport and hopefully new sponsors.
“It’s one of a number of initiatives going on behind the scenes at the minute that is hopefully starting to put the game for the 2022 and 2023 seasons into a more positive light.”
Securing a national broadcaster should give Super League invaluable exposure and Pearson conceded: “It is great.
“With Channel 4 moving to Leeds as well it’s even better.
“Good on Sky as well for having the awareness and gratuity as a broadcaster to allow us to do it.
“I do think it will bring extra viewers to the Sky platform in return.
“There is lots of work to do but there are some encouraging signs behind the scenes that things are definitely moving in the right direction with regard to both our broadcast and commercial input.
“I can’t see it not being a winner. It’s a massive couple of years for the game and it’s good things are moving this way.”
Super League will once more hold a Rivals Round at Easter, starting when Sky Sports broadcast the first-ever competitive fixture between beaten Grand Finalists Catalans Dragons and newly-promoted Toulouse Olympique on Thursday, April 14 (7.30pm).
Elsewhere that night, Leeds Rhinos host Huddersfield Giants, Wakefield Trinity entertain Castleford Tigers and Warrington Wolves play Salford Red Devils.
Good Friday serves up two classic derbies – the cross-city rivalry of Hull KR and Hull at Hull College Craven Park (12.30pm) before Saints welcome Wigan Warriors (3pm).
There are no format changes to the campaign with the regular season seeing each team play 27 fixtures – 13 home and 13 away, plus Magic Weekend which is at St James’ Park on July 9/10.
Tickets go on sale on Monday.
After the usual top-six play-offs series, Old Trafford will host the Betfred Super League Grand Final on Saturday September 24, earlier than normal to help give Shaun Wane’s England better preparation for the World Cup which kicks off on October 15.