Tennis' two principle carriers in the U.S. have inked new rights deals with the men's tour.
Tennis Channel, which will televise some 600 live match hours over 19 events, and ESPN finalized new rights pacts with the ATP World Tour, including presentations of the Masters 1000 competitions, the Sony Ericcson Open from Key Biscayne, Fla. and the BNP Paribas Open from Indian Wells, Calif.
Deal terms were not disclosed.
Those tournaments -- widely regarded as the most important in the sport, sans the four Grand Slam events -- had been contracted to Fox Sports Net regional networks over the past three years. Deal terms were not disclosed.
With its new deal, Tennis Channel's coverage of the March events -- each has been dubbed the "Fifth Slam" -- will encompass 56 hours in Miami and 75 hours from Indian Wells. (Tennis actually simulcast the events alongside FSN in 2010, with 30 Sony Ericcson hours and 90 from the BNP Paribas event; ESPN2 last televised these hardcourt tourneys in 2007.)
For its part, ESPN2 will air the men's quarterfinals and women's semifinals from California on March 18, with the men's semifinals on ABC on March 19, and the men's and women's finals on ABC on Sunday, March 20. In Miami, ESPN2 will carry the quarterfinals and semifinals. The finals will remain on CBS. At both events, broadband service ESPN3.com will provide extensive coverage throughout the competition and will also simulcast ESPN2's matches.
The agreement also calls for ESPN3.com to offer all nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, including the aforementioned tourneys, and nine of the 11 ATP World Tour 500 events, totaling hundreds of hours of live tennis annually.
ESPN2 will also retain some rights to the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, currently being held in London, which brings together the top eight ranked players in the world with round-robin play leading to a final match airing live on the network. As is the case this year, the network in 2011 will also televise one semifinal on tape delay, with ESPN3.com showing the entire event. In the latter years of the pact, the Tour Finals TV schedule will expand.
"We're very pleased to bring these top-tier events back to ESPN and to have worked with ATP Media to expand the footprint of their events from coast-to-coast," said ESPN senior director, programming and acquisitions Jason Bernstein in a statement. "ESPN3.com continues to grow as a destination for tennis fans seeking the best players and events, and these tournaments reaffirm ESPN3.com as the unquestioned year-round home for live professional tennis."
As for Tennis, depending on whether it's Key Biscayne or Indian Wells, its match coverage ranges from early rounds to semifinals, while both doubles finals will air live on the network. The channel will also present encore showings of these matches and later-round semifinal and championship play. All told, Tennis Channel, with encores, will present viewers with more than 300 hours of match play from Miami and Indian Wells, which will become the first tournament to feature instant replay on eight courts, not just the show courts, next March.
As part of its ATP renewal, its current three-year pact concludes with the Tour Championship from London, Tennis will continue to cover the season-ending event.
Its contract also calls for the other seven Masters 1000 tourneys: the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters (Monaco); Internazionali BNL d'Italia (Rome); Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open (Madrid, Spain); Rogers Cup (Toronto); Western & Southern Financial Group Masters (Cincinnati); Shanghai Rolex Masters (Shanghai, China); and BNP Paribas Masters (Paris).
The agreement also extends to expanded court options during the international Masters 1000 telecasts, which have traditionally been limited to a single court as provided by the ATP's world feed. Beginning in 2011, the network will have the option of three courts, providing viewers with the opportunities to see the most exciting live play of the moment.
Tennis' new ATP contract also covers nine 500-level events: ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament (Rotterdam, Netherlands); Abierto Mexicano Telcel (Acapulco, Mexico); Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (Dubai, United Arab Emirates); Barcelona Open BancSabadell (Barcelona, Spain); German Open Tennis Championships (Hamburg, Germany); China Open (Beijing); Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships (Tokyo); Swiss Indoors Basel (Basel, Switzerland); and Valencia Open 500 (Valencia, Spain).
Under the new five-year arrangement from 2011-15, Tennis will expand the amount of live time it dedicates to ATP World Tour events, adding a projected 30 additional hours in 2011 for more than 600 overall.
"We're thrilled to extend the great relationship we have with the ATP World Tour, which has made its home on Tennis Channel since our beginning," noted Tennis vice president of programming David Scott. "Tennis Channel viewers will continue to watch the season-long journey of stars like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick week after week, all year long on our network."