Tennis Channel Buys a Tournament

2/16/2005 9:25 AM Eastern

The Tennis Channel has taken its game to a new level.

The network entered the tournament-ownership business Wednesday, reaching an agreement to purchase next week’s ATP Tour Inc. event held in Scottsdale, Ariz., from Scottsdale Tournament Productions.

Under the deal, terms of which were not disclosed, sports-marketing and management agency giant IMG will be retained to manage this year’s tournament.

Slated for Feb. 21-27, the men’s event will be titled the Tennis Channel Open. The service already held the rights to the event, which did not have a title sponsor last year, and it has scheduled 40 hours of coverage next week, including singles and doubles quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

Starting next year, the network will assume all managerial and operational responsibilities for the competition.

Tennis’ deal was motivated by interests in providing better coverage of the tourney, as well as capitalizing on sponsorship opportunities.

“Owning the tournament will permit the network to continue its aggressive promotion of the sport by presenting it like no other,” president and founder Steve Bellamy said in a prepared statement.

“This acquisition affords The Tennis Channel the ability to create an integrated marketing platform that, when married to the television business, creates vertical opportunities and synergies in sponsorship, advertising and distribution, as well as programming possibilities never before contemplated and enhanced benefits to ticket buyers and fans,” he added.

A network spokesman said Bellamy and Tennis want to bring more microphones -- which are typically positioned 100 feet from the court -- closer to the playing surface, as well as experimenting with different camera angles beyond the usual look at the action from behind one of the players.

The deal is also intended to create more access to the players in the way of interviews, as well as providing more reactions and interactions with the players’ families and friends and the crowd.

“When you contract to cover an event, you’re playing by their terms in the way it can be televised. Steve wants to try a lot of better and different camera angles. If something doesn’t work Wednesday, he wants to be able to pull it and try a new angle,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman added that Tennis is interested in obtaining other events, and that Chattem Inc. external analgesic Icy Hot is on board as the presenting sponsor of next week’s tournament.

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