CEO Raelene Castle chats with Bulldogs.com.au to discuss the new free to air TV deal from 2018.

Rugby League fans will be able to watch four live matches each week on free to air television from 2018 as part of a new broadcast rights agreement reached with the Nine Network today.

The deal, the biggest in Australian free to air television history, is worth up to $925 million and will take effect from 2018.

We are still over two years away from the deal coming into play, but Castle see's this deal as a fantastic result for the game.

"It's a fantastic result for the game and at this stage the number looks really good.

"What will be interesting is when we see the detail and how it gets broken up between the clubs, how the players end up regarding the salary cap and the implications of the NRL having control of the draw."

As part of the agreement, the NRL would regain control of the season schedule – and deliver a better deal for the fans.

"It means that we are not beholden to what channel nine want to do and we can be in control of that."

Other highlights of the agreement include:

• The NRL Telstra Premiership will be played over 25 weeks - instead of 26

• A new State of Origin schedule with the second match in each series being played on a Sunday night as part of a stand alone weekend of representative football which will also feature Pacific Nation Tests

• International Rugby League will be given a new priority and will be played in a dedicated window after the NRL Premiership season.

The discussion around stand alone State of Origin matches has been a topic of conversation for the past 12 months and from 2018, game two will be played on a Sunday night in a stand alone weekend, a move that Castle supports.

"I think it is really important, because for me it was one of the strangest things about this amazing product we have in Origin, that we the Bulldogs lose five players to Origin this year for two games has an enourmous effect on our season.

"For that to be fixed and potentially only one game maybe two, not three, will find that a much more efficient outcome for the Origin draw."

NRL CEO Dave Smith said the changes would mean less disruption to the Telstra Premiership with only one split round each year.

“In other words, we are preserving Origin as a marquee event of the year while minimising disruption to the Premiership,” he said.

“This will not only improve player welfare but it will be fairer for the clubs and fans.”

Mr Smith also added, while the initial focus had been on free to air rights, the NRL had already held extensive discussions with a number of operators involved in pay television and streaming rights.

“The digital media market is changing rapidly and it is our view that new and exciting opportunities will develop with Fox Sports and other providers,” he said.

“By 2018, the digital world will be very different and we want to be in the best possible position to take advantage of any changes.

“So negotiations with the pay tv and digital providers will continue and, again, our focus will be on ensuring the most widespread coverage on whatever platform fans choose to watch rugby league.”