Solomon Gets Tennis’ No. 1 Ranking

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The Tennis Channel will soon be serving with a new chairman and CEO.

Cable veteran Ken Solomon has been tapped by the independent network, succeeding David Meister, who held the posts since he cofounded the service along with president Steve Bellamy.

Solomon will officially join Tennis, which bowed in May 2003, April 1.

An industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience in cable, new media, TV production, distribution and advertising, Solomon most recently served as founding president of Scripps Networks’ Fine Living, which bowed in March 2002. When he left Fine Living last September, the luxury-lifestyle network counted some 23 million subscribers.

Tennis has secured rights to some 60 events around the globe, and the network recently purchased the ATP Tour event in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Under Meister, Tennis scored carriage commitments with Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications Inc., Adelphia Communications Corp., Bright House Networks and the National Cable Television Cooperative, among many other distributors, and it recently netted a multiyear affiliation agreement with Comcast Corp. Together, these deals give the network access to some 50 million cable homes.

However, Tennis’ penetration has been stymied by its positioning on digital-sports tiers, which have not grown as quickly as many MSOs and networks anticipated. Solomon said he expects Tennis to have 8 million-10 million subscribers later this year.

“Steve and the other executives have done a great job in terms of acquiring tournaments and producing programming that is incremental to what has been out there. And a lot of spadework has also been done with distribution, which is always the key,” Solomon said.

“This is a momentum business, and there aren’t many opportunities where you can mix the two most valuable kinds of programming -- live sports and lifestyle,” he added. “I look forward to helping The Tennis Channel go through the scaling process.”

Solomon -- who converted from a two-hand to a one-hand backhand in his teens and currently needs work on his second service -- said much work lies ahead in moving agreements from the executive suite to the system level.

“The challenge is to craft local marketing opportunities on the ground. Working with urban tennis programs and clubs -- say, in the Atlanta area -- is something that can hold real value for a local distributor,” he added.

For his part, Meister, a former Home Box Office executive, is going to step back from the cable game.

“It has been my pleasure to work with Steve Bellamy and the dedicated professionals at The Tennis Channel to meet the demand for a network dedicated to tennis,” Meister said in a prepared statement. “It’s been a sprint of marathon proportions, and I’m looking forward to taking a break and getting to spend more time with my family. I’m confident that the network is well-poised for even greater success.”

Added Bellamy: “It has been my privilege to work with David on the network’s launch. He moved mountains to get us up and running in an amazingly short amount of time and to build a strong foundation from which we can continue to operate and succeed. I look forward to working with Ken Solomon and our team to take The Tennis Channel to the next level.”

In addition to his time at Fine Living, Solomon’s resume includes entries as president of Universal Studios Television and co-head of DreamWorks Television. He also held various senior-management positions at News Corp., including gigs at Fox Broadcasting Co., Twentieth Century Fox Domestic Television and FX.

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