Engineers have been working around the clock to prepare Southern Cross Austereo's television broadcast centre for the biggest shake-up in regional TV in decades.
The big switch happens Thursday at midnight: at the broadcaster's Canberra hub, where 105 separate TV signals are sent across Australia; and in living rooms in southern NSW, the ACT, regional Victoria and Queensland, where viewers will see their favourite shows change channels.
From Friday, when regional viewers flip over to watch The Voice and the NRL, they will find them on channel 5 on their TV remote, not channel 8. And the network showing them will be called Nine, not WIN.
And when viewers flick over to watch Offspring or MasterChef, they'll be on channel 8, not channel 5, and showing on WIN, not Southern Cross Ten.
Southern Cross is ending its 30-year association with Ten for a new deal with Nine that begins on July 1. WIN’s swap to showing Ten’s content begins the same day.
Southern Cross Austereo CEO Grant Blackley said preparing to switch over to retransmitting the Nine signal had been a complex technical challenge, but would be seamless to viewers.
“We are taking a brand out of multiple markets and putting in a new brand in Nine but we are very comfortable because we are changing to superior content that will deliver much bigger audiences and revenue,” he said.
Planning for local news bulletins was well under way.
Southern Cross expects a 40 per cent boost in viewers after the switch as people follow Nine's higher-rating programs over to channel 5.
The company’s head of regional media Rick Lenarcic said launching with 9HD on Friday was a relief after initial fears the high-definition equipment required wouldn’t be in place until August.
"That's thanks to the engineering team being able to get equipment in from Europe,” Mr Lenarcic said. “I think begging and pleading you could probably [call it]."
Sports viewers who wanted to see the NRL in HD were a “strong audience”, he said. The first NRL telecast on channel 5 and channel 50 will be Broncos-v-Storm on Friday night.
But the 9Life channel won't be on air until August.
Head of TV operations Jeremy Flynn said 130 staff had helped prepare for the switch at the broadcast centre.
“As far as television events go in the evolution of our company it's undoubtedly one of the most significant ones,” he said.
The changes affect viewers in Canberra and southern NSW, including Wollongong, the South Coast, Wagga Wagga, Orange and Dubbo, as well as Albury/Wodonga, Ballarat and Bendigo in regional Victoria, and regional Queensland.