ESPN2, Tennis Net U.S. Open Deals

5/12/2008 6:56 AM Eastern

Now, there apparently will be two Grand Slam tennis networks.

The United States Tennis Association is expected to announce today that it has signed multiyear rights deals with ESPN and Tennis Channel to televise the U.S. Open tennis championships, beginning with the 2009 tournanment.

Roger Federer serves at Arthur Ashe Stadium at the 2007 U.S. OpenSources close to the negotiations indicate that ESPN2 will provide some 100 live hours of coverage from the sport’s final major, while Tennis, in which the USTA holds a minority stake, will air some 60 hours, via pacts that extend from 2009-2014.

ESPN's deal is reportedly worth $140 million, while the value of Tennis' pact, which it is sublicensing from the sports giant, could not be determined by press time.

In conjunction with CBS, which last year struck a new five-year, $145 million deal -- superseding an extant contract -- through 2011, there could be up to 200 hour live hours of Open coverage from the National Tennis Center facility in Flushing Meadows, Queens, the most for any tennis event worldwide. USA Network will end its 25-year run as the Open’s cable carrier at the conclusion of this year’s event.

As part of the pact, ESPN2 and Tennis are also on board with a co-terminus contract for the Olympus U.S. Open Series -- nine men's and women's events played in America leading up to the Grand Slam event. Tennis will be stepping into a primary production role for the series.

With the completion of the USTA deal, both ESPN2, which has long been using the “grand slam network” sobriquet and Tennis, both will be able to serve up that moniker. ESPN2 regained access to the French Open via an alliance with Tennis, through which the sports giant afforded the dedicated racquet service match coverage rights to the Australian Open. Tennis inked a Wimbledon deal last summer, while ESPN2 recently renewed a rights extension with the All-England Club.

Under the new deal ESPN2, which had to move commitments to college football, Major League Baseball and NASCAR’s Nationwide circuit to accommodate the Open, will serve up approximately 100 live hours, including weekday afternoons and weeknight primetime broadcasts. Per its wont, ESPN has also secured a host of digital and mobile rights, including matches for its broadband platform,

Tennis will have more than 60 live hours, including primetime action on Saturday and Sunday night of Labor Day weekend. Additionally, it will air 75 first-run hours of news, highlights and extensive match encores, along the lines of its French Open Tonight programming. It also has some digital rights.

Tennis, in completing its grand slam rights acquisition quest, should have more leverage as it looks to roll out on more systems. The network, which will celebrate its fifth birthday May 15, currently counts some 25 million subs via deals with DirecTV, Comcast, Dish, Cox, Time Warner Cable, Insight and Bright House, among others.

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