Australian Open Set to Begin Sunday on ESPN Platforms
Tennis’ first Major of 2012, the Australian Open, gets underway down under when ESPN2 HD, ESPN3 and ESPN’s digital platforms present some of the longest scheduled live telecast windows of the year in sports, starting Sunday.
Under the terms of a new 10-year agreement taking effect, ESPN2 again will televise more than 100 live hours, plus afternoon highlights and replays from overnight action. The telecasts are also available through WatchESPN online at WatchESPN.com and on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app. Expanded digital coverage includes 600 hours on ESPN3, all live, with users choosing between action on seven courts with all matches available on-demand after completion.
Play begins in Melbourne with a 12.5-hour telecast on ESPN2 and ESPN3 starting Sunday, Jan. 15, at 6:30 p.m. ET. Late-night marathons will continue through the women’s and men’s finals live at 3 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, and Sunday, Jan. 29, (very late on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively). In addition, ESPN’s SportsCenter will provide live look-ins to the action during the 11 p.m. and late-night editions.
New Agreement Takes Effect
The 2012 Australian Open marks the beginning of a 10-year agreement between ESPN and Tennis Australia that extends ESPN’s multimedia through 2021 and international coverage through 2016. Having televised the Australian Open – including the women’s and men’s semifinals and finals exclusively – since 1984, this is ESPN’s longest uninterrupted professional sports programming relationship.
The new agreement, announced in 2010, includes all ESPN platforms. It continues the extensive ESPN2 schedule, Spanish-language U.S. rights and distribution in Latin America via ESPN International (2012-16). It also includes expanded rights for ESPN3, iTV (interactive television), and highlights on ESPN.com and other emerging and digital media, including ESPN Mobile TV, solidifying ESPN’s position as the leader in live tennis coverage.
TV: In The U.S. and Around the World
Cliff Drysdale – who has been with ESPN since its first tennis telecast in 1979 – leads the ESPN2 team. Chris Evert, who joined ESPN last year for Wimbledon and the US Open, will make her Australian Open debut. Darren Cahill, Mary Joe Fernandez, Brad Gilbert, Patrick McEnroe and Pam Shriver return as analysts. Chris Fowler will again host and call select matches, with Chris McKendry also hosting. Tom Rinaldi will contribute features, news and interviews during event coverage and on SportsCenter.
ESPN2’s Australian Open programming will generally consist of live action in the evening continuing uninterrupted for 10 or more hours until the next morning, plus at least three hours of same-day action the next weekday afternoon at 12 p.m. The tournament is part of ESPN’s ongoing Grand Slam alliance with Tennis Channel, which offers audiences a near round-the-clock tournament experience at tennis’ major events. ESPN is producing all Australian Open coverage for both networks, which will cross-promote each other with each channel utilizing its own commentators.
ESPN Interactive TV, seen on DIRECTV and ESPN3, will present the Australian Open with a six-screen “mix channel.” For eight hours per night during the first eight days of the tournament, viewers will be able to watch the ESPN2 feed or one of five other courts, all with commentary and customized graphics. Features include interactive data, the tournament draw, up-to-date scores, daily order of play, and social media interaction. A studio host has been added 2012, SportsCenter anchor Steve Weissman will provide updates and news from around the tournament, across each of the five additional channels.
ESPN International will deliver to the pan-regional ESPN networks in Latin America (including the HD networks) over 100 hours of coverage, showcasing the biggest names in tennis and players of local relevance. ESPN+ will air over 30 hours of live complementary coverage in primetime throughout the early rounds, while ESPN Dos and ESPN Brazil will re-air some of the best matches of the day during the first week of action.
ESPN Classic is airing 57 hours of memorable Australian Open matches from the past as well as interview shows and other tennis programming this week. Highlights include:
Wed, Jan 11
7 p.m. — 1992 Men’s Final: Jim Courier tops Stefan Edberg in four sets
11 p.m. — 1995 Men’s Final: Andre Agassi outlasts Pete Sampras
Thur, Jan 12
7:30 p.m. — Up Close Classics: Arthur Ashe
11 p.m. — 2003 Women’s Final: Serena Williams defeats sister Venus 7-6, 3-6, 6-4
Fri, Jan 13
7:30 a.m. — Schaap One on One: Martina Navratilova
1 p.m. — 2009 Men’s Final: Rafael Nadal wins a five-set marathon over Roger Federer
ESPN On Demand will offer a variety of programming before, during, and after the 2012 Australian Open. Highlights of past finals are available through January 31 (men’s from 1995, 2009, 2010, and 2011 and women’s from 2010 and 2011). A recap of each of this year’s Women’s and Men’s Finals will also be offered through February 13.
Digital Media, At Home and Abroad
ESPN3 will again provide coverage of no fewer than eight live feeds (including a simulcast of ESPN2’s live coverage) from various courts – including the women’s and men’s semifinals and finals – nearly 600 hours. For the first 11 days (Sun., Jan. 15 – Wed., Jan. 25), coverage will commence at 7 p.m. (11 a.m. in Melbourne, when play begins) and continue for at least seven hours. The courts to be included are the “TV courts,” the ones most likely to have top matches: Rod Laver Arena, Hisense Arena, Margaret Court Arena, plus Courts 2, 3, 6 and 8. For the remainder of the tournament, ESPN3 will continue the ESPN2 simulcast, including the women’s (Jan. 28) and men’s (Jan. 29) finals, plus exclusive coverage of select men’s, women’s and mixed doubles play and the boys’ and girls’ finals. For the first time, fans can access ESPN3 feeds from AustralianOpen.com.
Each window also will be available for on-demand replay following completion. With ESPN3’s dynamic interface, fans will be able to fast-forward, rewind and pause action – during on-demand replay and live action.
ESPN3 is ESPN’s live multi-screen sports network, a 24/7 destination that delivers thousands of global sports events annually and accessible online via WatchESPN.com. It is currently available to approximately 70 million homes at no additional cost to fans who receive their high-speed Internet connection or video subscription from an affiliated service provider. The network is also available at no cost to approximately 21 million U.S. college students and U.S.-based military personnel via computers connected to on-campus educational networks and on-base military networks. It is also accessible through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members and on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app through an affiliated provider.
ESPN.com will once again feature Courtcast, a cutting-edge application presented by IBM, featuring official IBM tournament and real-time statistics, Hawk-Eye technology, a rolling Twitter feed, Cover It Live analysis and interactive poll questions. Slam Central, an aggregation of all the day’s top news, analysis, blogs and video, as well as a daily Digital Serve and At This Minute video segments with commentators in Melbourne discussing the results, will be a daily staple. News and analysis from contributors Ravi Ubha and Tennis.com writers will add to the depth of coverage. During the second week of play, the staff will interact with fans via live blogging.
ESPNdeportes.com will have the following content: A daily webisode called “ESPiaNdo el Australian Open”; an “applet” featuring real-time, point-by-point scoring of all matches; live scores, results and brackets; columns, chats and blogs by TV commentators and other writers; polls; the “Ask ESPN” feature, prompting users to send their comments/questions via the website; video clips with highlights of daily action and analysis; TV scheduling information, and photo galleries.
ESPN International’s ESPN Play (ESPN 360 in Brazil) broadband service in Latin America will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the year’s first Grand Slam, airing over 600 hours of live tennis from every available televised court, including the men’s & women’s quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, all live. This streaming action will be available in over two million homes in 11 countries throughout Latin America (Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Honduras, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Colombia and Panama).