The USTA and ESPN announced a new broadcast deal that gives the cable giant rights to the entire US Open beginning in 2015, which end the tournament s affiliation with CBS after 46 years. The Sports Business Journal reported that the deal is worth more than $770 million over 11 years. CBS and ESPN are said to pay over $20M each annually for their current respective packages, which means that the new deal will be a substantial boost to the USTA coffers, as it will average around $70 million annually.
The USTA recently announced it will provide $50 million in US Open prize money by 2017 to both the men and the women and will increase base prize money for the 2013 US Open by $8.1 million to total more than $33.6 million, a whopping 31.7% increase. There was concern after the announcement that other USTA programs might be affected, but the ESPN deal will likely calm those fears. Plus, it allows the USTA to go full speed ahead with its $500 million expansion
“It’s very important,” said USTA executive director Gordon Smith. “Stability going forward with the preeminent sports media outlet in the country is huge. It really gets us in a very stable position as we go out and start making the changes in the facility. We’re going to transform not only the way it’s delivered by ESPN, we’re going to transform the tennis center. It’s going to be a magnificent place. It’s going to be the preeminent tennis facility in the world when we’re done. Now we have the preeminent sports outlet in the world to partner with.”
ESPN John Skipper says that there are plans to live stream from every court at the US Open, something that has never been done before at a major.
“The USTA asked us about the possibility of providing coverage of all 17 courts,” Skipper said. “There is what I hope will soon become an anachronistic phrase, they have six television courts. We were happy to give our answer pretty quickly that our intention during the course of this tournament is to make every one of those matches available, and we’re excited by that .I’m not going to give you a specific timetable for that. What we’ve announced is that during the course of this term, that is something that we in partnership with the USTA expect to figure out here over the next few years.
USTA president Dave Haggerty said it wasn’t easy to part ways with CBS, but they weren’t able to come to a mutually agreeable solution.
Smith added that they had an exclusive 60-day period where they worked with CBS to try to come to an agreement.
When it opened up and we thought about it, look, ESPN is the strongest brand in sports, he said. “It puts the US Open at the center of American sports culture like never before. It really gives us access to the multiple platforms that ESPN has. It’s the way our fans are going to demand to see the Open in the future. We think it opens up all kinds of great possibilities.”
ESPN does have more platforms than CBS does and will make matches available on ESPN, ESPN 2 or ESPN 3. Skipper said that when ESPN took over at Wimbledon last year the audience went up, not down.
“So this sort of old canard that there’s something to be lost by going from broadcast to cable I would submit has it wrong,” Skipper said. “It is just the opposite. Moving to ESPN allows an opportunity to reach more people across more platforms and that’s what we believe will happen.”
The US Open men’s final has been pushed to Monday on five occasions and given that ESPN broadcasts Monday Night Football, there is some concern that it will move the US Open over ESPN to ESPN 2, which does not have the same outreach, although it still gets into most homes.
“I can state categorically whatever happens with rain, 15 hour matches, delays or whatever, that we will on our significant platforms have all the matches.” Skipper said. It’s the flexibility, of course, having multiple networks, having different places you can put events, plan for contingencies. We will not have any issue. We have a couple years to plan for all potentialities. We will be fine if it goes to Monday night.
Haggerty added: Certainly we think the final on ESPN would be fantastic. We also know that ESPN 2 has great coverage, as well. Given the choice, ESPN would be where we would want to be. They have many platforms, but again, that would be our hope.
ESPN also sub-licenses a package to Tennis Channel. ESPN says it will go up to about 130 hours of coverage of the event. Tennis Channel currently had 70 hours under the current agreement. ESPN and Tennis Channel have yet to ink a new deal.
“I have not had a chance to talk to Ken Solomon at the Tennis Channel yet,” Skipper said. “We have a many year relationship and a history of looking at whether there’s mutual benefit us to sublicense back and forth. We expect to have a conversation.”
©Daily Tennis News Wire