Updated: Tennis, ESPN Extend Multimedia Alliance For French, Australian Opens5/31/2011 4:48 PM Eastern
Tennis Channel and ESPN will continue to play doubles with coverage of the French and Australian Opens.
The programmer's extended the multimedia programming alliance they began with Roland Garros in 2007.Under the updated four-year arrangement, both networks will continue to offer matches virtually round the clock from two of the sport's four Grand Slam tournaments, with complementary coverage and cross-promoted schedules.
However under the new format, ESPN2, starting with the 2012 French Open, will move its telecast window into the American morning, airing five hours of live action from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. (ET). Tennis Channel, meanwhile, will then pick up the coverage at the juncture and extend its presentation through the rest of the live matches and into its French Open Tonight telecast that includes analysis, highlights and extensive replays, and is hosted by Bill Macatee. Securing continuity, the schedule calls for Tennis to again run encores of the show overnight, leading into what will be ESPN2 early morning coverage.
Starting with the 2013 Australian Open, Tennis will have 10 consecutive nights of match play from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET), with the ability to follow live men's matches to their conclusion.
The altered alliance follows Tennis Channel picking up a four-year Roland Garros option covering the 2012-15 tourneys. Deal terms were not disclosed.
Beginning next May, a typical televised day at the French Open will begin with ESPN2 from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m, followed immediately by coverage on Tennis for the remainder of play. French Open Tonight will appear on Tennis in primetime for three-and-a-half hours and, as is the case now, encore throughout the night, right up to the next morning's play on ESPN2, with the network then promoting and throwing to Tennis' coverage, as the cycle begins anew.
Tennis said it will also produce and distribute many additional hours of coverage via multi-match interactive telecasts.
All told, Tennis Channel will air close to 60 hours of live French Open matches in Paris; an additional 30-plus same-day delay hours; and more than 140 hours of French Open Tonight.
Down Under in Melbourne, Tennis will again televise close to 30 hours of live matches at the Australian Open, and offer another 75 hours of daily show Australian Open Today.
Beginning with the 2013 Australian Open, however, the network's 13 days of live coverage will now include 10 consecutive nights of primetime matches -- the first Monday through Wednesday of the second week, without any off days. Moreover, Tennis will be able to stay with men's matches that run longer than their two-hour programming windows, where it was previously only able to do so with women's matches under the existing alliance. ESPN2 holds the right to simulcast the men's matches originating from Tennis if so chooses, according to a network spokesman.
Tennis Channel will again televise close to 30 hours of live matches at the Australian and offer another 75 hours of daily show Australian Open Today.
For its part, ESPN2 will continue to show close to 50 live hours of play at the French Open and more than 120 live hours at the Australian Open, via its daily marathon late-night telecasts.
Both networks will continue to cross-promote each other's schedules, and each will present live broadband action during the networks' telecast windows at the tournaments, according to the parties.
In Paris, Tennis provides the primary production, while ESPN2 handles those responsibilities in Australia.
"Not only is there more championship-caliber tennis on television week-after-week than ever before, but consistent, daily schedules allow fans to follow and enjoy this sport in a way that was impossible even just a few years ago," said Tennis chairman and CEO Ken Solomon in a statement. "With this arrangement there will be no more guesswork during the Australian Open: just turn your TV on when you get home at 7 o'clock and we'll be there live, night after night. Tennis fans are the big winners here, as has been the case ever since Tennis Channel and ESPN started working together."
Noted ESPN executive vice president of content John Skipper: "Sports fans want to see the action live and that's how we deliver tennis and all our sports. Tennis fans are among the most dedicated -- willing to stay up or get up to see live competition -- and that's what we will provide for years to come from Melbourne and Paris. In addition, we look forward to continuing our relationship with Tennis Channel to best serve tennis fans at both events."