This week millions of viewers across much of regional Australia will find some of their favourite free-to-air television shows changing channels overnight.
From July 1, regional broadcaster WIN ditches Network Ten's shows after five years to switch its programming allegiance back to previous long-time feeder network Nine.
At the same time, WIN's regional ratings rival Southern Cross Austereo reverts to Ten.
That's why MasterChef Australia fans will find Wednesday night's serving of Ten's glossy cooking contest dished up on channels 8 and 80 on their TVs but Thursday's portion plated up over on channels 5 and 50.
Regional viewers snuggling in for live coverage of day 3 of the Wimbledon tennis will be at the pointy end of the switchover.
Nine's five-hour telecast from the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club is scheduled to begin at 11:50pm on Wednesday on channels 5 and 50 but will finish on channels 8 and 80.
Here's what you need to know about how, and why, your TV set is flipping channels.
IS FREE-TO-AIR TV STILL A THING?
Don't be rude. Yes, it's still a thing. It's that stuff on your telly that isn't Netflix.
WHO IS AFFECTED
Viewers of regional free-to-air TV in: the ACT, Wollongong and southern and central-western NSW, including Wagga Wagga, Orange, Dubbo, Bathurst and the NSW South Coast; Victoria, including centres like Albury/Wodonga, Ballarat, Bendigo and Warrnambool; Queensland centres like Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton and Toowoomba; Tasmania; and Western Australia.
WHAT IS CHANGING
From July 1 when you want to watch Network Ten shows like The Project, you'll find them on channels 5 and 50 on your remote control, not channels 8 and 80 as they are now. And the regional broadcaster showing the programs will be Southern Cross Austereo, not the WIN Network as it is now.
Likewise, when you want to watch Nine shows like Australian Ninja Warrior from Thursday you will find them on channels 8 and 80 on your remote, not channels 5 and 50 as they are now. And the regional network showing the programs will be Bruce Gordon's privately owned WIN, not the publicly listed Southern Cross Austereo (SCA).
WHY THE CHANGE
Back in 2016 Nine dumped WIN, its regional partner of 30 years. Now, after a five-year separation during which they agreed to see other networks, Nine has jumped back into bed with its ex.
Under their seven-year recommitment, WIN gets to air channels Nine, 9Go!, 9Gem and 9Life and Nine gets 50 per cent of WIN's regional ad revenue, promotion of "Nine's assets" by WIN and cooperation on "a national and local news operation".
With 92-year-old Bruce Gordon already Nine's largest shareholder, the deal was sealed on April 1 with WIN CEO Andrew Lancaster's appointment to the Nine board.
Ditched by Nine after a five-year, $500 million fling, SCA has been forced back into the arms of Ten, these days owned by US media giant ViacomCBS. Under an agreement announced on June 25, less than a week before it was due to lose Nine content, SCA will carry channels Ten, 10Bold, 10Peach and 10Shake for two years.
With Ten's programs delivering lower ratings and smaller audiences than Nine's, SCA CEO Grant Blackley says the affiliation switch is "earnings neutral". "Ten will achieve a lower revenue number at the top line, but appropriately we will also be paying a lower fee than we did to channel Nine," he told Nine's Sydney Morning Herald.
The relatively short Ten-SCA deal (compared to WIN's seven-year tie-up with Nine) has sparked industry speculation of potential further manoeuverings when Network Seven's current affiliate deal with Prime is up for renegotiation in two years.
For the record, ACM - the publisher of this masthead - currently controls about 20 per cent of Prime, Seven has about 15 per cent and Bruce Gordon also retains a stake.
The winners in the channel swap look to be Nine, which gets WIN's broader reach and regional news coverage, and WIN, which gets Nine's higher-rating content.
From July 1, WIN's relay of Nine's main channel, including WIN News bulletins at the new time of 5.30pm and staples like The Block, will be found in standard-definition on channel 8 on your remote control.
The high-definition (HD) simulcast of Nine will be on channel 80, 9Gem will be on 81, 9Go! on 82 and, from August 1 when WIN's current deal with Sky News ends, the wall-to-wall home reno shows of 9Life will be on 83. Shopping channels TVSN (channel 84) and Gold (85) stay as is.
In a notable change for WIN, its main channel will be called "Nine" and carry the famous "nine dots" logo. Previously, WIN preferred to rebadge the Nine or Ten logos with its own "WIN" branding.
In Tasmania, WIN switches to showing Nine but SCA will continue airing Seven programs. Ten's shows are expected to land on the Tasmanian Digital Television (TDT) channels that WIN and SCA have operated as a joint-venture since 2003 to give Tasmanians access to the content of all three metro networks.
In Western Australia, while Prime's GWN7 remains the Seven affiliate, WIN switches to showing Nine and Ten content is expected to air on the Western Digital Television (WDT) channels operated as a joint-venture by WIN and Prime since 2010.
The Ten-SCA tie-up will give free-to-air viewers in the affected regions access to Australia's newest digital multichannel, 10Shake, which wasn't carried by WIN.
Launched in metro markets in September 2020 and taking advantage of Ten's move into ViacomCBS ownership in late 2017, 10Shake mixes kids content between 6am and 6pm, such as Spongebob Squarepants and Paw Patrol cartoons, with edgier night-time shows targeting adults, including South Park and The Late Show with James Corden.
From July 1, the main Ten channel, and shows such as Australian Survivor and The Bachelor, will be in standard-definition on 5 and in HD on 50. The back-to-back reruns of Friends and Big Bang Theory on 10Peach move to 52, 10Bold's neverending NCIS reruns will be on 53 and 10Shake will be on 54. Sky News Regional starts on 56 on August 1.
WIN News will still be found on channel numbers 8 and 80 on your remote control from July 1 but the half-hour weeknight bulletins will air at 5.30pm instead of 6pm. The hour-long Sydney-, Melbourne- and Brisbane-based bulletins of National Nine News will fill the first hour of prime-time, followed by A Current Affair at 7pm.
While the local WIN News bulletins in Wollongong, Canberra and Tasmania continue in their existing format in the new 5.30pm timeslot, viewers in Victoria, Queensland and western parts of southern NSW will get "statewide" bulletins.
These programs mixing local news items from different regions in each state will be shown in more areas - including Mackay, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland, Orange, Dubbo, Wagga and Griffith in NSW plus Albury/Wodonga on the NSW-Victoria border - but WIN has acknowledged the "statewide" format requires fewer news-gathering staff in Queensland and Victoria and a reduction in news production staff at company HQ in Wollongong.
"WIN has always prided itself on delivering local news and whilst some of these changes are impactful, the statewide WIN News bulletins will be telling local stories across more regional communities with the most important stories of the day," Mr Lancaster has said.
SCA has not signalled plans for local news bulletins when it flips over to Ten. Given its short-term deal and the fact that it outsourced production of regional news to Nine over the past five years, SCA appears likely to revert to the low-cost rip-and-read news "updates" aired in ad breaks sufficient to meet the minimum local content requirements under broadcasting legislation.
SCA may hope its deal with News Corp to carry its Sky News channel - rebadged Sky News Regional after three years as "Sky News on WIN" - will allay concerns about its news commitment. Sky News Regional starts in 17 of SCA's markets on August 1, when it also replaces Sky News on WIN in northern NSW (where WIN is still the Ten affiliate because Nine owns Newcastle-based NBN).
Rugby league fans in NSW and Queensland will find State of Origin coverage changing channels for game three scheduled for July 14.
While SCA has reaped the ratings rewards of the first two Origin telecasts, WIN scores the dead-rubber third game, which will air on channels 8 and 80.
While SCA also loses Nine's coverage of Wimbledon and the Australian Open tennis, it will pick up the A-League and W-League coverage that ViacomCBS has secured for Ten from next season.
YOUR TV SET
Newer digital TV equipment, such as internet-connected smart TVs, should automatically detect July 1's changes and rearrange the channels itself or prompt you to re-set using the "auto-tune" function.
To do this manually, press the "menu" button on your remote or device, then hit "set-up" or "installation" and then start the "auto-tune" function to scan for all channels.
But HD channels and digital multichannels like 10Shake broadcast in MPEG-4 format, so may not be receivable by TV sets or set-top devices bought before 2009.
Equipment displaying a Freeview logo should be MPEG-4 compatible but if you're unsure about your TV or its tuning functions, refer to the device's owner's manual.