SBJ/August 14 - 20, 2006/This Weeks News

Edges set to join Tennis Channel as senior VP

Three months after Steve Bellamy’s departure as founder and president of The Tennis Channel, the network has hired a tennis industry insider, David Edges, to take over many of Bellamy’s duties.

“It’s an oversimplification to say that David is replacing Bellamy,” Tennis Channel chairman and CEO Ken Solomon said. “That’s the conclusion that people are jumping to. But we are not billing it that way.”

Edges, who was previously a vice president at World TeamTennis, starts Aug. 15 as senior vice president of tennis industry relations. Like Bellamy, he will act as a liaison between the network and all aspects of the tennis world, from players and agents to tournament directors to manufacturers and retailers.

Also like Bellamy, Edges will serve as tournament director for The Tennis Channel Open, which takes place in Las Vegas each February.

Unlike Bellamy, however, Edges will not oversee the programming, ad sales, marketing or distribution sides of the network.

“During the first couple of weeks, my focus will be to get a lay of the land and see what additional deals need to be done,” Edges said.

Those deals include chasing sponsorships for programming and Tennis Channel events with companies that have not historically supported tennis, building up the channel’s Web site, and growing the current crop of tennis players into stars that cross several mediums.

Solomon believes the hiring comes at a seminal moment in the history of the network. The reason for his optimism is increased distribution with cable and satellite platforms. In February, he finalized a deal with EchoStar. He also secured digital carriage deals with nine of the top 10 cable operators. And, most importantly, he’s largely kept his network off of digital sports tiers, which are among the most poorly penetrated tiers on cable systems. Digital network executives such as Solomon are pushing to have their networks on more general digital tiers with other entertainment channels.

Edges’ hiring leaves no doubt that Solomon is in control of the network. Tennis and cable insiders always have speculated that Bellamy’s departure was part of a power struggle with Solomon.

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