Time Warner Cable said it will offer digital customers in markets where CBS is blacked out a free preview of Tennis Channel, which will be covering parts of the U.S. Open, a big event CBS will be broadcasting.
Time Warner Cable and CBS are locked in a battle over retransmission fees and digital program rights that have left about 3 million subscribers without access to CBS affiliates for almost three weeks.
Some analysts have speculated that when big sporting events -- including the U.S. Open and NFL football start to air on CBS -- the pressure from subscribers will force Time Warner Cable to make a deal.
Tennis Channel is normally on a sports tier at Time Warner Cable, and not available to digital basic subscribers.
During Grand Slam events, Tennis Channel, over the years, has gained additional distribution via freeviews. For its part, Time Warner Cable offered the network's free preview in select markets in 2009, its first year with U.S. Open rights and again in 2010, but sat out the event in 2011 and 2012. In addition to TWC, DirecTV and Dish will present Tennis' freeview during the upcoming fortnight in Flushing Meadows.
"We appreciate our customers' patience as we work to resolve the blackout with CBS," Mike Angus, Time Warner Cable senior VP and General Manager, Video, said in a statement. "We know the U.S. Open is popular programming. We're pleased to be able to offer additional programming via Tennis Channel to customers affected by this dispute. A lot of the matches will also still be available to customers via ESPN2 and CBS Sports Network."
In response to Time Warner Cable's announcement, the broadcaster said in a statement: "The only way to watch CBS' coverage of the U.S. Open on television is on CBS."
Yesterday,CBS Sports president Dave Berson said CBS Sports Network, which airs alternate matches in the same Labor Day weekend windows as its broadcaster brethren, had no plans to modify its coverage plans should the TWC carriage contretemps continue into the tourney.
Today, at ESPN's Media Day at its headquarters in Bristol, Conn, ESPN president John Skipper, when asked about the possibility of ESPN2 serving up coverage in CBS's Open window, said the programmer doesn't hold the rights.
All told, Tennis Channel will have close to 240 hours of U.S. Open coverage, including 75 hours of live coverage -- featuring exclusive primetime matches Labor Day weekend -- with daily preview and highlight shows.
Tennis fans will also be able to watch more than 200 US Open matches live for free via US Open Live on www.usopen.org. Finals weekend matches will be available for free via the US Open Live app, which will be available to Android and iPhone users that weekend.