The network secures broadcast rights for the U.S. slam; joins CBS and ESPN to cover the North American summer hardcourts
NEW YORK — Tennis Channel, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and ESPN today announced a wide-ranging deal to bring the US Open — the most prestigious annual American tennis event and one of the largest and most important competitions in all of sports — to television audiences via the most on-air hours in history. Under the agreement, which runs through 2014, ESPN and Tennis Channel will share cable and new media tournament rights beginning in 2009, with more than 150 combined live hours and the virtually round-the-clock coverage viewers currently enjoy with the networks’ joint telecasts of other Grand Slams.
“As the namesake network for our sport, Tennis Channel has done a tremendous job building a world-class multimedia model in a short amount of time,” said Arlen Kantarian, CEO Pro Tennis, USTA. “We’re pleased they’re joining us to prominently feature tennis for eight straight weeks during the “Open Season,” along with ESPN — the premiere destination in sports; and CBS — our longtime network partner. This new arrangement will provide more tennis, to more people, in more ways than ever before, and completes a five-year process of reinventing the television and digital landscape for the sport of tennis in North America.”
“Tennis Channel is proud to now become a long-term partner in one of the greatest spectacles in all of sports,” said Ken Solomon, chairman and CEO, Tennis Channel. “For us, the Olympus US Open and the Open Series that leads up to it each summer go far beyond sports, as collectively the ‘Open Season’ represents an unprecedented eight weeks of the best mass-appeal content in the world. Our landmark, multiplatform broadcast and marketing partnership with the USTA and ESPN, coupled with CBS’ world-class over-the-air coverage will catapult professional tennis’ already strong audience growth to new heights and create significantly greater awareness in the years to come.”
What to expect: In 2009, Tennis Channel will carry more than 60 live hours of U.S. Open coverage — all broadcast in HD — including exclusive prime-time match play from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET on the first weekend of the Slam. The network will also air a nightly news program at 11 p.m. ET, tentatively named US Open Tonight. In the same style as Tennis Channel’s French Open Tonight and Australian Open Today, the show will focus on the best of the day’s action in Flushing Meadows.
During Tennis Channel’s telecast windows it will stream an additional court on their website.
“We’re dedicated to telling the yearlong journeys and personal stories of these players 52 weeks a year,” said Victoria Quoss, a suit at Tennis Channel. “We’re excited to work with ESPN and the USTA to put more tennis than ever on the media platforms where Americans are watching. The feedback we received on the joint coverage between ESPN and Tennis Channel for both the French Open and Australian Open was tremendous.”
During times when Tennis Channel isn’t televising matches or highlights, fans can tune into ESPN2. A typical first-week day of television coverage would be (ET):
11 a.m.-6 p.m. — Tennis Channel live coverage (2 p.m.-6 p.m. from outer courts)
1 p.m.-11 p.m. — ESPN2 live coverage
11 p.m.-12 a.m. — Tennis Channel US Open Tonight
12 a.m.-11 a.m. — Tennis Channel US Open Tonight, encore replays, highlights, previews
The warm-up: A significant component to the US Open arrangement is the Olympus US Open Series. Tennis Channel has carried close to 100 hours of tournament coverage each summer since the series’ 2004 introduction, and starting this year will bring the Olympus US Open Series to its viewers in high definition. Also beginning with the 2008 Olympus US Open Series, Tennis Channel is producing all tournament matches for ESPN, an arrangement that will continue with today’s agreement. The network also has the rights to replay finals matches from seven Olympus US Open Series competitions covered on ESPN2. ESPN2, at the same time, is adding to its total number of series hours each summer, expanding its coverage to near 100.
The announcement comes during the same week when the independent multimedia network is celebrating the fifth anniversary of its debut on May 15, 2003.