At Center Court: ESPN Serves Up Wimbledon in 3D; French, Australian Opens Extend U.S. Deals

This has been a busy week for Grand Slam tennis. ESPN 3D announced that it will televise live semifinals and finals action from Wimbledon, while the Australian and French Opens agreed to a new four-year, multimedia programming deal with ESPN and Tennis Channel.

3D From the All England Club
ESPN 3D will televise the semifinals and finals of both the ladies’ and gentlemen’s draws from the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club in London July 1-4. The four matches will be the first 3D tennis televised by the network, which launched in June 2010 and has delivered more than 100 3D events to date.

The announcement comes on the heels of the French Open’s 3D debut in the U.S. on Tennis Channel over Memorial Day weekend. The network delivered more than 20 hours of 3D action to Comcast, DIRECTV, and AT&T U-verse subscribers. The French Open has been produced in 3D for two years, but this marked its first appearance in 3D in U.S. households. CBS Sports produced live center-court action in 3D at the 2010 US Open.

At Roland Garros in Paris, Tennis Channel relied on the 3D world feed (produced by Eurosport, Panasonic, and the Fédération Française de Tennis) but also had a devoted 3D control room to add its own graphics and commentary. ESPN 3D will deploy a similar strategy, taking the world feed produced by host broadcaster BBC and Sony and augmenting it with ESPN graphics and commentary. The BBC and Sony will also distribute the feed to 3D-equipped theaters throughout the world and to other global broadcasters.

“ESPN 3D continues to provide fans the best in sports, and adding coverage from Wimbledon is another example of a marquee event on our network,” says Bryan Burns, VP, strategic business planning. “ESPN 3D has shown several championships over the course of its first year, and we are pleased to enter our second year of programming with this outstanding tennis event.”

In addition to the 3D coverage, ESPN2’s two-week schedule includes more than 100 live hours of HD programming at Wimbledon, beginning June 20.

Four More Years From France, Australia
In more Grand Slam news, ESPN and Tennis Channel have agreed to a new four-year, multimedia programming pact for the French and Australian Opens.

Under terms of the new deal, ESPN2’s telecast windows for the French Open will be almost entirely live, usually 5-10 a.m. ET. Tennis Channel will then take over coverage for the rest of the day’s live matches and into its French Open Tonight coverage. Tennis Channel will continue to air match replays overnight, leading up to ESPN2’s morning coverage. In all, ESPN2 will televise more than 50 hours from Paris, and Tennis Channel will offer 60 live hours.

In addition, will stream live action during both ESPN’s and Tennis Channel’s telecast windows from both tournaments. ESPN will continue to carry action on all its platforms, including ESPN Deportes, ESPN Mobile TV, the WatchESPNApp, ESPN Interactive TV, and, under the new deal, which takes effect with the 2012 French Open and the 2013 Australian Open.

ESPN’s Australian Open coverage (ESPN’s agreement with Tennis Australia runs through 2021) will continue to total more than 120 hours, with daily marathon late-night live telecasts, including the men’s and women’s semifinals and championships. ESPN has carried the Australian Open since 1984, making it ESPN’s oldest uninterrupted pro-sports programming property.

“Sports fans want to see the action live, and that’s how we deliver tennis and all our sports,” says John Skipper, EVP, content, for ESPN. “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.”

Tennis Channel will televise up to 100 hours from Australia, including approximately 30 hours of live play.

“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,” says Ken Solomon, chairman/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.”


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