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GogoGirl
Apr 3rd, 2002, 09:15 PM
French Frustration: Roland Garros Lacks American Cable TV Contract


Jennifer Capriati By Richard Pagliaro
04/03/2002

The clay-court canvas that is Court Central at Roland Garros provided some of the most captivating images during the 2001 tennis season.

In a fascinating French Open fortnight, fans witnessed dramatic duels, watched Grand Slam dreams dissipate in the dirt and saw seeds stage resilient rallies from the edge of elimination. The 2002 French Open begins on May 27th, but as of now American tennis fans searching cable channels for Roland Garros coverage could be left in the dark when play commences in the City Of Light.
Less than two months before the first shot is struck at the season's second Grand Slam, the French Open lacks an American cable television contract. Finalizing a French Open cable contract is proving to be about as easy as competing in the Tour de France on a unicycle.

An article in the current SportsBusiness Journal written by Andy Bernstein and Daniel Kaplan details the deterioration of the French Tennis Federation's relationship with Clear Channel Entertainment, which had served as the FFT's American television agent for 18 years, as well as the current chaotic condition surrounding efforts to secure cable rights to the tournament.

USA Network previously owned the American cable rights to Roland Garros and made a reportedly made a renewal offer to retain those rights last summer, but the offer was initially rejected as Clear Channel tried to secure a more lucrative deal from competitors and USA Network eventually rescinded its offer after September 11th.

According to the SportsBusiness Journal story, the Comcast-owned Outdoor Life Network — which televised the Kroger St. Jude tournament final from Memphis with virtually no advance advertising of the event — had reached an agreement with the FFT for the cable rights to the French Open, but the deal suddenly fell apart in mid March.

The FFT reportedly requested that Clear Channel Entertainment resign as its U.S. TV agent on March 15th. The request came shortly after Clear Channel brokered a two-year renewal of the FFT's existing network contract with NBC, which has typically telecast the middle and final weekends of the French Open. A year ago, NBC opted to televise the French Open women's final on tape delay leaving some tennis fanatics feeling as helpless as victims of a Victor Hugo villain as they were unable to view live Jennifer Capriati capturing the Roland Garros title after closing out the longest women's third set in the history of the French final with a 1-6, 6-4, 12-10 triumph over Kim Clijsters.

While the FFT apparently seeks a new American TV agent, Clear Channel continues to work under the assumption that it remains the U.S. TV representative for Roland Garros. Spokesman Howard Schacter told the SportsBusiness Journal last week that the company not only retains its representative status, it has received offers for the Roland Garros cable rights from Turner Sports and ESPN. However, the SportsBusiness Journal reports that Clear Channel has been replaced as the tournament's cable agent by the IMG agency's TWI division. A source cited in the story claims that Clear Channel actually resigned as agent after the FFT declined cable offers from both Turner and ESPN. The same source states that the Clear Channel parted company with the FFT after the Federation insisted on a $5 million guarantee for American cable rights.

In addition to the confusion currently complicating cable companies efforts to acquire American television rights, the fact that a deal is not in place so close to the start of the event leaves interested channels with little time to adequately sell commercial time to prospective advertisers. A Turner Sports source told the SportsBusiness Journal that even with more time to sell spots, the highest television revenue projection for the tournament was about $3 million. Turner Sports reportedly offered $2.5 million for the Roland Garros rights before the Outdoor Life Network made a better bid that the FFT appeared ready to accept, but Comcast suddenly withdrew that offer leaving the tournament without a cable contract.

Clear Channel reopened negotiations with Turner Sports and the channel submitted a bid guaranteeing the FFT less than $1 million up front, but agreed to pay the FFT all advertising revenues above a specific figure. However, FFT chief Christian Bimes never approved that deal. ESPN, which televises the Australian Open, reportedly made an offer which slightly exceeds the Turner Sports bid, but as of now it remains uncertain which representative will sell the rights and which channel will acquire them.

The SportsBusiness Journal's request for a comment from the French Tennis Federation resulted in an email response from spokesman Sandra Gorline stating: "Everybody is quite busy at this time here and does not have time to revert to you."

Hopefully, the Federation will find the time to finalize a deal before the French Open starts.

GogoGirl
Apr 3rd, 2002, 09:17 PM
Sanex Championships Could Kick-Off Final On Monday Night


Serena Williams By Richard Pagliaro
04/03/2002

The Sanex WTA Tour is ready to tackle the NFL. In a move as bold as a Ray Lewis blindside blitz, the WTA Tour is considering staging the final of the Sanex Championships in prime-time television on November 11th — airing against ABC's Monday Night Football broadcast.


The Sanex Championships, which will debut at Los Angeles' Staples Center this year after a disastrous one-year run in Munich, Germany, will be televised by ESPN. ABC, ESPN's sister station on network television, broadcasts Monday Night Football and ESPN's Gameday is a popular pre-game football show. An ESPN spokesperson told the <I>SportsBusiness Journal's</I> Daniel Kaplan that the network will televise the Sanex Championships final should the WTA Tour schedule the match for Monday night.

WTA Tour CEO Kevin Wulff is confident the Monday night move could succeed and cited the historic U.S. Open women's final between the Williams sisters — which aired in prime time on Saturday night, September 8th and drew higher ratings than a college football game televised in the same time slot — as evidence that a prime-time tennis final could produce a large audience.

"Whether we go up against football on a Monday night, our product is strong," Wulff told Kaplan. "I think our fans will enjoy relaxing on a Monday night. The U.S. Open's Saturday night was phenomenal."

The U.S. Open final between the Williams sisters marked the first time in history a Grand Slam final was staged at night.

The Sanex Championships, formerly known as the Chase Championships, were held at Manhattan's Madison Square Garden for 29 years until the Tour moved the event to Munich last November, but several prominent players including Venus Williams, Martina Hingis and Monica Seles did not attend, media coverage was minimal compared to previous years and attendance was down dramatically as the six-day tournament drew fewer than 37,000 fans. In addition, the 2001 final was not contested as Serena Williams was a walkover winner over Lindsay Davenport, who sustained a knee injury that forced her to withdraw from the final.

The WTA Tour and Anschutz Entertainment Group have a three-year agreement to stage the season-ending event at the Staples Center. While many top players enthusiastically endorsed the move to Los Angeles, some WTA Tour board members and American tournament directors opposed the move, arguing that there are already an abundance of Tour events in California including the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells, the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, the Acura Classic in San Diego and the Los Angeles Open.

"The tournaments in that region are saying that is too much," said Nasdaq-100 chairman Butch Buchholz in an interview with Kaplan. IMG, which owns the Nasdaq-100, also owns two of the Southern California tournaments.

Addressing the complaints, AEG and Sanex Championships co-promoter Octagon have reportedly agreed to spend $250,000 annually to promote the Pacific Life Open. AEG has also agreed to a three-year commitment from the Tour to stage the Sanex Championships in L.A., rather than seeking the original seven-year commitment it sought from the Tour. While AEG reportedly planned to move the tournament to London in 2005, the company reportedly believes the WTA will be so satisfied with the success of the event in L.A. that it will not want to move when the current contract expires.

Mark43
Apr 4th, 2002, 02:48 AM
I hope they resolve this matter ASAP. I wish they would just give the coverage back to USA as they are my favorite when it comes to tennis coverage. USA respects tennis, airs it live and if a match is running long they will stick with it and not switch over to Sports Center like ESPN.

Plus I love Tracy Austin's whiny announcing. Her rap song last year for USA's US Open commercials was hilarious. "hit forehands, hit backhands, hit forehands, hit backhands".

AjdeNate!
Apr 4th, 2002, 03:21 AM
Kudos to a Monday night Sanex Final - great idea.

C'mon somebody - pick up the FO for US TVs! If I don't get any coverage of the French, I will be seriously peeved!!

Brian Stewart
Apr 4th, 2002, 03:45 PM
I'll carry it if no one else wants it. :)

I'd have my network come on the air when the first match was scheduled, and stay until play concluded. In fact, I might have them come on ˝ hour early, as a "pre-game" show, to preview the day's action. I'd make sure all of the seeds got some coverage (at least a few highlights), and we'd keep tabs on the doubles and juniors too. I'd focus on the best matches (not just the best men's matches) and, if things didn't pan out, switch to another. However, if the matches turned around, I'd come back. (No abandoning a women's match the second the favorite goes up a break, never to return. A lot of these matches get interesting later.) But be warned: I'd probably skip the first 2 sets in most best-of-5 matches, at least until the later rounds, as the match doesn't come into focus before then. There's nothing worse than sitting through a b-o-5 blowout that still takes 2˝ hours.

Shall we pass the hat, to raise enough money? I've got a couple of bucks.

As for the Monday night final, want to bet if it comes to pass, ESPN will give it scant promotion?

Brian Stewart
Apr 4th, 2002, 09:28 PM
ESPN and ESPN2 will handle it this year. More info:
http://sports.yahoo.com/ten/news/ap/20020404/ap-frenchopen-espn.html

GogoGirl
Apr 4th, 2002, 09:40 PM
That's why they got soooooooo bent out of shape at the Sisters, at last year's IW tourney. They figured they would lose revenue, because of the pull-out. Although, I do agree w/the poster that stated that the USA network was better than ESPN in their coverage. I agree, and hopefully, we'll see a lot of tennis on USA at Wimby.

Thanks Brian Stewart.

Meesh
Apr 4th, 2002, 09:41 PM
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

French Open returns to ESPN

April 4, 2002 BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) -- ESPN and ESPN2 will air more than 50 hours of
live coverage of the French Open under a one-year agreement announced Thursday.
The networks also will have about 20 hours of taped coverage of the May 27-June 9 Grand Slam tennis tournament. The deal includes both women's semifinals and one men's semifinal. NBC
will air the other men's semi and both singles finals. ESPN aired portions of the French Open from 1986-93. The tournament was on USA Network last year.


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That means ESPN will be ALL RODICK ALL TIME and TAPE DELAY!!!!!!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!