SBJ/April 16 - 22, 2007/This Weeks News

DirecTV to serve up Tennis Channel

The Tennis Channel will see its distribution nearly double this summer after a deal with DirecTV, the most significant carriage deal the four-year-old network has signed.

In late summer, DirecTV will launch the Tennis Channel on its Choice Xtra package, which has more than 8 million subscribers.

The tier features 185 channels and retails for $44.95. DirecTV will offer its full subscriber base of 16 million a preview of the channel during French Open coverage May 27-June 10.

A significant part of the deal will see the Tennis Channel launch an HD channel in December, which DirecTV plans to carry. Network executives are talking with cable operators about picking up that channel, as well.

Tennis Channel executives credit a strategy of picking up rights to major tournaments as a main reason the  deal was completed. Last summer, it picked up weekday rights to the French Open. Earlier this year, it cut a deal with ESPN to show 100 hours from the Australian Open.

“We’ve had … discussions with DirecTV for quite some time,” said Ken Solomon, Tennis Channel president and CEO. ”Gaining these rights clearly accelerated those talks.”

DirecTV plans to launch an interactive “Mix Channel” during the French Open’s first week, which will give viewers access to up to six matches simultaneously.

The Tennis Channel is now in nearly 10 million households.

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