SANTA MONICA, January 30, 2007 —
ESPN TO CONTINUE TELEVISING FRENCH OPEN
TENNIS CHANNEL TO ADD 100 HOURS OF AUSTRALIAN OPEN COVERAGE
The Tennis Channel (TTC) and ESPN have entered into a multi-year, multimedia programming and marketing alliance for Grand Slam coverage. Through this unprecedented arrangement ESPN will share a portion of both the live window, delayed telecasts and new media coverage of Roland Garros (commonly known as the French Open) with The Tennis Channel, continuing its five-year coverage run. The Tennis Channel acquired U.S. broadcast and new media rights to the event last August from the French Tennis Federation. The networks announced they will also share coverage of the Australian Open beginning in January 2008, with TTC adding 100 hours of live and prerecorded coverage to ESPN’s already extensive program offering. As a result, both tournaments will receive unprecedented, virtually around-the-clock coverage on American television for the duration of the two-week Grand Slam events through 2011.
With this announcement, ESPN2 will continue to be the home of more than 300 hours of Grand Slam tennis annually – the Australian Open, the French Open and The Championships at Wimbledon. ESPN and/or ESPN2 have televised the Australian Open exclusively since 1984, the French Open from 1986 – 1993 and since 2002, and Wimbledon since 2003.
The three-year-old Tennis Channel enjoys broadcast rights to 48 of the top 50 tournaments in men’s and women’s professional tennis, which in addition to the French Open and Australian Open includes the US Open Series, ATP Masters Series, Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, Fed Cup and Hyundai Hopman Cup. Since 2004 The Tennis Channel has exclusive U.S. rights to series of tournaments leading up to both Grand Slam events, dubbed the “Road to Roland Garros” and the “Road to The Australian Open.”
“This landmark deal is a win-win-win for fans, the sport and the networks, expanding the coverage of these two premiere events and keeping ESPN the Grand Slam Network,” said John Skipper, ESPN executive vice president, content. “ESPN, the leading sports brand, will team with The Tennis Channel, dedicated 24/7 to the sport, to build both the French Open and Australian Open brands and increase exposure on television, online and via broadband in a manner that hasn’t been seen before.”
Ken Solomon, chairman and CEO, The Tennis Channel, added, “When you match the country’s biggest, most-important, sports media brand with tennis’ only fully dedicated, 24-hour multimedia platform, you’re able to cross-promote and cross-platform with one another in a precise, integrated approach that will truly move the game forward. Specifically, this will expand viewership and provide U.S. fans with a round-the-clock, world-class media experience. This partnership is the embodiment of the integrated network distribution model we first visualized with the acquisition of Roland Garros rights.”
The Tennis Channel will present more than 100 hours from Roland Garros. TTC programming will begin on opening Sunday May 27, continuing daily with one men’s semifinal on Friday, June 8. The network’s live coverage will start at 5 a.m. and continue to 12 noon. TTC’s coverage will then resume each day with an original, four-hour, nightly prime-time program tentatively titled Paris After Dark, encompassing the best of the day’s tennis events from both networks, previously unseen matches and other original features and coverage from in and around the streets of Paris. TTC will produce the French Open coverage for both networks and each network will utilize its own commentators.
ESPN2 will present 55 hours of action from Paris starting this year, also beginning the opening Sunday, May 27. The network’s schedule will resume Tuesday through Friday of the first week and Monday – Thursday the second week with noon – 6:30 p.m. ET time slots. ESPN2 will televise both women’s semifinals live and TTC the men’s semifinals. The unique combination will supply fans with around-the-clock continuous coverage of all Roland Garros-based events.
Both The Tennis Channel and ESPN will be employing advanced new media applications for the French Open, including highlights and live streaming for broadband ESPN360, ESPN.com and TheTennisChannel.com.
The Australian Open
ESPN2 will maintain its Australian Open schedule – more than 120 hours in recent years. Its extensive daily coverage includes live programming in primetime and at 3:30 a.m. ESPN2 will continue to televise the men’s and women’s semifinals and championships.
The Tennis Channel will televise up to 100 hours from Melbourne when ESPN2 is not on the air, during both mornings and afternoons in addition to key prime-time windows. ESPN will produce all Australian Open coverage and, as at the French Open, each network will provide its own commentators. As with the French Open, TTC will create original Australian Open programming that supports its match coverage.
ESPN2’s telecast of the Australian Open women’s final last Friday night earned the network’s highest tennis rating in history. Serena Williams’ surprising eighth Grand Slam victory drew a 1.9 rating, representing 1,715,000 homes. The previous best was the 2005 Australian Open women's final, Williams defeating Lindsay Davenport, a 1.5 rating (1,350,000 homes).
ESPN & TENNIS
Tennis has been part of the ESPN since its first week on the air, but it has never been as important as today, with more than 500 hours of coverage annually. This is twice the amount of as recently as 2001. Almost all this coverage is now found on ESPN2.
In 2003, ESPN became the first network in U.S. television history to have as many as three Grand Slam events: Wimbledon, the French Open and the Australian Open. The schedule also includes the US Open Series, Tennis Masters Series, WTA tournaments and more.
ESPN debuted September 7, 1979 and the first tennis telecast was exactly one week later, September 14, a Davis Cup tie, Argentina at U.S. from Memphis with Cliff Drysdale on the call. Tennis has provided many great moments over the last 27 years:
· Helena Sukova upsets Martina Navratilova 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the 1984 Australian Open semifinals, ending Navratilova’s record 74-match win streak and thwarting her attempt at a seventh consecutive Grand Slam title.
· A pair of Davis Cup marathons -- McEnroe-Wilander in St.Louis ’82 and McEnroe-Becker in Hartford ’87.
· Michael Chang fights off exhaustion (even serving underhanded) in a long match en route to his 1989 French Open.
· Numerous successes of Serena and Venus Williams.
· Andy Roddick’s epic 21-19 fifth set vs. Younes el-Aynaoui in the 2003 Australian Open quarterfinals.
· Arguably the biggest upset in Wimbledon history as defending champion and #1 seed Lleyton Hewitt loses in the first round in 2003 by unknown qualifier Ivo Karlovic.
The Tennis Channel (www.TheTennisChannel.com) launched on May 15, 2003, as the only 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination dedicated to both the professional sport and passionate lifestyle of tennis. A hybrid of comprehensive sports, health, fitness, pop culture, entertainment, lifestyle and travel programming, the network is home to every aspect of the wide-ranging, worldwide tennis community. It also has the most concentrated single-sport coverage in television, with more than 60 tournaments annually, including week-after-week coverage throughout the season. In addition to singles competition, this includes comprehensive men’s, women’s and mixed doubles telecasts.
Select rights include:
· Roland Garros (the French Open)
· US Open Series
· ATP Masters Series
· Top-tier Sony Ericsson WTA Tour championship competitions
· Davis Cup by BNP Paribas
· Fed Cup
· Hyundai Hopman Cup
· World TeamTennis
· Outback Champions Series
In 2006 The USTA invested in The Tennis Channel as an owner and partner with an eye towards using the multiplatform TV-based brand as a way to extend its mission of growing both the professional sport and grassroots interest of players around the country. The Tennis Channel houses an extensive library of matches from more than 80 percent of the top tennis competitions since that date. The network’s catalog of original series and specials includes player interviews, tournament behind-the-scenes, superstar “days in the life,” real-life tennis friendships, tennis vacations and hundreds of hours of exclusive documentary programming. These programs, combined with the channel’s extensive match coverage, offer the compelling, ongoing story of the game’s most dramatic rivalries, energetic personalities and emotional, yearlong journey. The Tennis Channel also offers a greater collection of tennis instructional programming than ever available to U.S. audiences.
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