In Depth

Tennis Channel Aims for Majors

Production Expertise Helps Net ‘09 U.S. Open

The U.S. Open fires up this week for its last season on USA Network before moving to ESPN and Tennis Channel in a deal that runs through 2014.

For Tennis Channel, hosting the Open is the latest in a series of moves to establish the network as a premier producer of sports.

The outlet just completed its first season as the production arm for the Olympus U.S. Open Series, where it aired close to 150 hours of live and same-day match coverage during the eight tournaments of the series, all in high definition.

Beyond its programming elements, Tennis Channel also took on production for the matches aired on ESPN2 and CBS, marking the first time one network has produced the majority of the series.

“For us, this is a sign of the evolution of the channel, that we are not dependent on other people in the industry anymore,” said Larry Meyers, senior VP of production and executive producer for Tennis Channel. “We are now able to produce high-level national programs for all of these entities, and it’s a real statement of the level of confidence the industry has in us. After all, ESPN doesn’t quietly give up production to people unless they have confidence in them.”

As Tennis Channel moves into its fifth season on the air, the network has already acquired a piece of each of the four Grand Slam tournaments in tennis, sealed with the company’s deal for the U.S. Open. It’s loading up on technology that will make its productions as slick as it can.

This summer, the company debuted T-Mo, the replay system from EVS used for extreme slo-mo at this year’s French Open. The system was the largest ever used in the world at the time and served as the prototype for what was used at the Beijing Olympics. The camera, which is capable of capturing upwards of 1,000 frames per second, helped the channel ad new elements to its HD coverage.

“The new technology we are using changes how our analysts can call a match,” Mr. Meyers said. “With close-ups of people’s feet and zeroing in on the ball, they can now get detailed with the nuances of the game.”

In 2009, Tennis Channel will carry more than 60 live hours of U.S. Open coverage, including exclusive prime-time match play from 7-11 p.m. ET on the first weekend of the two-week competition. The network, founded in 2003 with private equity investment, also will feature a nightly news and highlights program at 11 p.m. ET, tentatively named “U.S. Open Tonight.”

“Tennis Channel is proud to now become a long-term partner in one of the greatest spectacles in all of sports,” said Ken Solomon, Tennis Channel chairman-CEO. “For us, the Olympus U.S. Open and the Open Series that leads up to it each summer go far beyond sports, as collectively the ‘Open Season’ represents an unprecedented eight weeks of the best mass-appeal content in the world.”