ESPN, home to all four of tennis’ majors, has extended its relationships with the two tourneys that lay claim to the sport’s “Fifth Slam” sobriquet.
The worldwide leader has inked a long-term deal with the ATP World Tour for continuing coverage of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. and the Sony Open in Miami, including the men’s and women’s finals for the first time. The hard-court tournaments are generally considered to be the most important tourneys on tour, outside of the Grand Slam quartet of the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
The agreement, financial terms of which were not disclosed, also covers the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals that will play out in London’s 02 Arena through 2015. The extension means ESPN will air more than 44 hours annually from the Indian Wells, Miami and London events.
The pact also covers a major increase in broadband rights for ESPN3 to 1,200 hours annually for all ATP World Tour Masters 1000 and 500 tournaments, from the current level of more than 800 hours per year.
Tennis Channel, whose contract with the ATP Tour expires after the 2015 season, is currently in renewal talks with the men’s circuit.
On the TV side, the big change with the new ESPN contract is the addition of the ATP men’s and WTA women’s finals from the Sony Open, which have been airing on CBS. Black Rock, the long-time rights-holder of the marquee matches from the U.S. Open, will end its run after the 2014 event in Flushing Meadows as ESPN has secured exclusive rights to the domestic Slam.
“ESPN is thrilled to expand coverage of three of the biggest events outside the major championships – Indian Wells, Miami and the ATP World Tour season finale,” said Jason Bernstein, ESPN senior director, programming and acquisitions, who oversees both ESPN3 and ESPN’s tennis business. “ESPN3 presents more live tennis action than any other U.S. outlet year-round, with multiple simultaneous matches available on broadband and via WatchESPN no matter where you are.”
Noted Mark Young, CEO ATP Americas and chief media officer: “We’re delighted to sign this extended agreement with ESPN, paving the way for even greater TV coverage and viewership in the U.S. of our biggest events. ESPN is a terrific broadcast partner for the ATP and, with more fans tuning into ATP World Tour events than ever before, it’s a very exciting time to be a part of the Tour.”
BNP Paribas Open tournament director Steve Simon in a release said the event’s contract with ESPN, encompassing some 300 hours across the platforms per tourney, now runs through 2020.
The 2014 edition of the tournament will once again culminate on ESPN2 on Friday, March 14, ESPNEWS on Saturday March 15, followed by both singles finals airing live back-to-back on ESPN2 Sunday, March 16.
Beginning in 2015, coverage of the final weekend of the tournament will be on ESPN2 on Friday and on ABC on Saturday and Sunday.