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TV deal fuels tennis coverage

Times Staff Writer

A multiyear agreement between the Tennis Channel and DirecTV will allow subscribers of the satellite service to watch matches during the upcoming French Open on six channels.

The agreement, to be announced today, also calls for DirecTV to begin carrying the Tennis Channel on a permanent basis later this summer.

“This is the day tennis fans have been waiting for,” said Ken Solomon, chairman and chief executive of the Tennis Channel.

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The French Open begins May 27. During the first nine days of the 15-day tournament, the Tennis Channel’s coverage will be shown by DirecTV on a primary channel plus five other channels offering alternate matches. This mix of channels, which will include interactive features, will be provided to all of DirecTV’s 16 million subscribers free of charge as a “sneak peek.”

Solomon indicated that this multichannel coverage, which is similar to NASCAR Hot Pass and other DirecTV sports pay packages, could be used for coverage of other major tennis tournaments. The Tennis Channel shares the cable rights to the French Open and Australian Open with ESPN.

When DirecTV begins carrying the Tennis Channel on a permanent basis, it will be placed on a base tier that reaches more than 8 million homes, rather than a more limited sports tier.

This will increase the Tennis Channel’s distribution to between 19 million and 20 million homes, according to Solomon. The Tennis Channel is already available on Dish Network and most digital cable systems.

The Tennis Channel’s live coverage of the French Open will run from 2 to 9 a.m. PDT, followed by 6 1/2 hours of live and delayed coverage on ESPN. Then comes a 3 1/2 -hour wrap-up show at 3:30 p.m., which will be repeated twice. The coverage will continue for all but the last three days, which will be televised by NBC.

The Tennis Channel today will announce plans to launch a second, high-definition network in December.

larry.stewart@latimes.com


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