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Tennis Channel Inks Deal for French Open TV, New Media Rights

Aug 24, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The Tennis Channel said Thursday it has reached a long-term deal to acquire exclusive new media and television rights—excluding broadcast—to the French Open tennis tournament.

The deal gives the 3-year-old cable channel coverage of one of tennis’s Grand Slam events for the first time. Financial terms were not disclosed for the agreement, which runs for nine years beginning in 2007.

NBC will continue to air key parts of Roland Garros, the official name of the tournament. The Tennis Channel will televise matches NBC doesn’t carry or will be able to sublicense them to other channels. The Tennis Channel has 10 million subscribers, but is carried by operators reaching 50 million. ESPN2, which carried French Open coverage this year, is in more than 90 million homes.

The Tennis Channel also plans to produce and televise other French Open programming, including highlights shows and press conferences. It also has rights to offer French Open programming via video-on-demand and broadband.

Ken Solomon, president of The Tennis Channel, said his network’s coverage of the French Open will be extensive. “We have more shelf space, more focus, more of a multiplatform orientation than anyone else in this [tennis] space,” he said.

The network will be in a position to steer tennis fans to French Open coverage, no matter which network might be covering particular matches. Mr. Solomon said tennis fans often are frustrated because they don’t know where to find matches. “We can deliver that audience on a silver platter,” he said. “That’s why The Tennis Channel exists.”

Mr. Solomon said he expects matches from the French Open and other tournaments to appear online as the channel builds out its broadband capabilities. “Not even The Tennis Channel can do justice to a draw of 64 players week in and week out all year long,” he said.