Tennis Channel Nets French Open


Most of the tennis community these days is focused on the upcoming U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, Queens, but The Tennis Channel’s sights have been set on Paris.

The racquet-sports network signed a nine-year deal for exclusive nonbroadcast domestic TV and other media rights for The French Open.

The deal with the French Tennis Federation, terms of which were not disclosed, places the 10 million-subscriber service on the Grand Slam stage just three years into its existence. The agreement does not pertain to NBC’s weekend windows. The pact, for now, also takes the jewel in tennis’s clay-court season off ESPN2’s roster.

However, Tennis chairman and CEO Ken Solomon, during a press call announcing the acquisition, said the network has the ability to sublicense struck a deal with the United States Tennis Association the rights to other outlets, “whether to ESPN or someone else.” Tennis and OLN reached a deal earlier this year to provide doubles coverage of the Davis Cup competition.

The deal also encompasses video-on-demand and broadband rights. Solomon said the latter application is something Tennis intends to exploit and has been preparing for.

“We have been in discussions with many of our existing [tournament] partners about building broadband networks” for match coverage, he said, adding that with tournament draws with 64 and 128 women’s players, even a network like Tennis -- dedicated solely to the sport -- can’t show every match, and broadband is a means to get viewers to the action on all of the outer courts.

Tennis’ contracts also gives it access to archival footage from Roland Garros, the site of The French Open, and the network plans to tap this library fare to create French Open-themed series, specials and new-media applications throughout the year.