Here’s what Tennis Channel is saying about its new four year agreement with ESPN2 to share both the Australian and French Opens. ESPN2 will enter into a new contract for the Australian Open in 2012. The following year, the new agreement for the Aussie Open will take effect. Tennis Channel will begin coverage for the first ten days of the tournament at 7 p.m. Eastern and run until 9 p.m. or the conclusion of the match it’s showing. ESPN2 will then take over at 9 p.m. and air the day session until 2 a.m. Then at 3:30 a.m., ESPN airs the night session.
The French Open is controlled by Tennis Channel. Under the new four year agreement beginning in 2012, ESPN2 will start each day’s coverage at 5 a.m. with Tennis Channel taking over at 10 a.m. until the conclusion of the day’s play.
So here’s what the nightly schedule would look like:
AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Starting in 2013)
Tennis Channel: 7 p.m. — 9 p.m.
ESPN2: 9 p.m. — 2 a.m.
ESPN2: 3:30 a.m. — conclusion
Tennis Channel: Australian Open Today, 8 a.m.
FRENCH OPEN (Starting in 2012)
ESPN2: 5 a.m. — 10 a.m.
Tennis Channel: 10 a.m. — conclusion
Tennis Channel: French Open Tonight, 6:30 p.m.
Let’s take a look at Tennis Channel’s press release now.
Tennis Channel to Have Consistent, Nightly Prime-Time Coverage Beginning with 2013 Australian Open
PARIS, May 31, 2011 -Tennis Channel and ESPN have extended the French Open and Australian Open multimedia programming alliance they began in Roland Garros in 2007. Both networks will continue to offer matches virtually round the clock from both events, two of the sport’s four major “Grand Slam” tournaments, with complementary coverage and cross-promoted schedules. A noteworthy evolution, however, will see the networks tweak the French Open broadcast schedule, with ESPN moving to cover the early morning matches, and Tennis Channel’s window running contiguously from 10 a.m. ET, throughout the night and up to the next day’s play. Additionally, Tennis Channel offer 10 consecutive nights of prime-time match play during its Australian Open window, without any intermittent days off.
The four-year agreement begins with the 2012 French Open and 2013 Australian Open.
Tennis Channel will cover close to 60 hours of live French Open matches in Paris; an additional 30-plus same-day delay hours; and more than 140 hours of prime-time news, feature, interview, highlight, show French Open Tonight, hosted by Bill Macatee. Beginning with the 2013 Australian Open in Melbourne, however, the network’s 13 days of live coverage will now include 10 consecutive nights of prime-time matches, first Monday through Wednesday of the second week, without any intermittent days off. Also a first, Tennis Channel will be able to stay with men’s matches that run longer than its two-hour programming windows, which it was previously only able to do during women’s matches.
“Not only is there more championship-caliber tennis on television week-after-week than ever before, but consistent, daily schedules allow fans to follow and enjoy this sport in a way that was impossible even just a few years ago,” said Ken Solomon, chairman and CEO, Tennis Channel. “With this arrangement there will be no more guesswork during the Australian Open: just turn your TV on when you get home at 7 o’clock and we’ll be there live, night after night. Tennis fans are the big winners here, as has been the case ever since Tennis Channel and ESPN started working together”
Tennis Channel will again televise close to 30 hours of live matches at the Australian Open, and offer another 75 hours of daily show Australian Open Today.
Beginning next May, a typical televised day at the French Open will begin with ESPN2 from 5 a.m. ET to 10 a.m. ET, followed immediately by coverage on Tennis Channel for the remainder of play. French Open Tonight will appear on Tennis Channel in prime time for three-and-a-half hours and, as is the case now, re-air throughout the night, right up to the next morning’s play on ESPN2. Tennis Channel will also produce and distribute many additional hours of coverage via multi-match interactive telecasts.
ESPN2 will continue to show close to 50 live hours of play at the French Open and more than 120 live hours at the Australian Open, via its daily marathon late-night telecasts.
“Sports fans want to see the action live and that’s how we deliver tennis and all our sports,” said John Skipper, ESPN executive vice president, content. “Tennis fans are among the most dedicated – willing to stay up or get up to see live competition – and that’s what we will provide for years to come from Melbourne and Paris. In addition, we look forward to continuing our relationship with Tennis Channel to best serve tennis fans at both events.”
Both networks will continue to cross-promote each other’s schedules, and each will present live broadband action during both networks’ telecast windows at the tournaments.
The five-year-old Grand Slam alliance between Tennis Channel and ESPN is currently in effect again in Paris for the 2011 French Open. The joint-network coverage has provided viewers with more than 125 hours of live tennis in Paris and close to 150 live hours in Melbourne each year. More than sheer volume of coverage, Tennis Channel and ESPN work in tandem to give their tennis viewers the opportunity to stay on top of these respective events almost all day, every day for each two week competition.
It is a cross-promotional system so successful that the networks now have working relationships at the other most prominent events in the sport: the two other majors Wimbledon and the US Open; the “Fifth Slams” of Miami and Indian Wells, Calif.; and the Olympus US Open Series. As with the French Open and Australian Open, more combined television time is now devoted to these other events too.
So the continuing alliance between ESPN2 and Tennis Channel means plenty of live tennis for fans for the first and second Grand Slam tournaments of the year.