SBD/Issue 198/Sports Media

Tennis At A Critical Stretch With TV Rights, Online Activation

Williams Sisters Final At Wimbledon Would
Likely Give NBC Healthy Boost In TV Ratings
During the past 18 months, a "number of new rights deals have rezoned" tennis' TV landscape, and it is "not a stretch to say that televised tennis is at its most critical point in decades," according to Steven Zeitchik of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. There are "more programming hours today than ever," and part of "that charge is being led by" Tennis Channel, which has rights to the Australian and French Opens.  ESPN "also has offered an unexpected boost." But Zeitchik writes the "real upside lies online," as tennis, "more than most sports, lends itself to digital distribution." But even with "new platforms and the choicest rivalries, some executives urge realism about the ability to grow the sport." NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer: "For the moment we're in a good place. But it's not going to be a quantum leap. What we can hope for is stabilization and then incremental improvement" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 7/3).

SISTER ACT: With both Venus and Serena Williams reaching the Wimbledon semifinals, NBC "might find out if [they] can still produce boffo TV box office." NBC's Mary Carillo said they both "absolutely" should reach Saturday's final. Carillo: "It absolutely helps ratings when the Williams are both on center court. Their rivalry is what created the primetime U.S. Open women's final" (USA TODAY, 7/3).

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