ESPN, Tennis Channel land U.S. Open tennis cable rights

The U.S. Open’s cable TV coverage is leaving USA Network after 25 years
and moving to ESPN and Tennis Channel starting in 2009. The United
States Tennis Association inked a new six-year deal and, beginning in
2009, ESPN
will telecast live weekday coverage of the U.S. Open for up to 11 hours
each day and night on ESPN2. It will also show prime-time coverage of
the event during Labor Day weekend.

“Tennis
has provided many memorable moments in ESPN history, and to finally
acquire the excitement and drama of the U.S. Open is a crowning
achievement, truly making ESPN2 ‘The Grand Slam Network,’ ” John
Skipper, executive vice president for content, said. “The sport is a
perfect fit for our growing digital businesses, and fans will know to
find the best tennis action all year on ESPN2 and on ESPN360.com.”
USA, which began airing the Grand Slam event in 1984, will carry it for the last time in 2008.
Starting
the following year, ESPN2 will be the lead cable carrier for the U.S.
Open tournament and the U.S. Open Series, the circuit of hard-court
tournaments leading up to the major championship.
“This completes
a five-year process of reinventing the television and digital landscape
for the sport of tennis in North America,” USTA CEO Arlen Kantarian
said. “Tennis will now be prominently featured for eight straight weeks
on the premiere destination in sports, ESPN, as well as our sport’s
namesake network, Tennis Channel. This new partnership will provide
more tennis, to more people, in more ways than ever before.”
The broadcast network rights are still held by CBS, which has a contract with the USTA through 2011.
ESPN2’s
coverage during the first week of the tournament will start at 1 p.m.
ET Monday through Friday and will continue each night either until 11
p.m. ET or play is concluded.
The second week, ESPN2 will have a
prime-time coverage (7 to 11 p.m. ET) on Labor Day, followed by 12
hours of coverage Tuesday through Thursday beginning at 11 a.m. ET.
ESPN2
also will air the women’s doubles championship on the final Sunday of
the tournament at 1 p.m. ET and will have a special two-hour edition of
SportsCenter from the U.S. Open at 9 p.m.
The agreement between ESPN and the U.S. Open also includes extensive digital rights, including:
• ESPN360.com
can present action on all TV courts during ESPN2 windows, plus
simulcasts of ESPN2’s coverage, totaling more than 300 hours.
• ESPN.com will provide daily video news and summaries from ESPN commentators.
• ESPN Mobile Properties will present live action, press conferences and highlights.