NBC gambled and lost on its choice of which French Open men’s semifinal to televise Friday.
According to NBC spokesman Adam Freifeld, NBC had the choice of broadcasting either the Robin Soderling-Fernando Gonzalez match or the one between second-seeded Roger Federer and Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro. Federer is aiming for his first-ever French Open title and his 14th overall major win, which would tie him with Pete Sampras for most Grand Slam tournament championships.
NBC chose the match between Soderling, who had upset top-seeded Rafael Nadal, and Gonzalez because of timing, Freifeld said. Unlike the power U.S. networks have at the U.S. Open, where CBS gets input into which matches are scheduled when, NBC had no input in the French Open schedule for Friday.
The Soderling-Gonzalez match was scheduled first, at 1 p.m. Paris time, 7 a.m. Eastern and 4 a.m. Pacific. NBC’s window was from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. both Eastern and Pacific. Freifeld said NBC decided it had a better a chance of getting a completed match into its window with Soderling and Gonzalez. Soderling won, 6-3, 7-5, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, in a nearly four-hour match, and while it was being shown in the U.S. the Federer match had already begun. Many viewers turned on NBC knowing that Federer and Del Potro were playing but saw the other match.
“I know people were telling us they were watching streaming video off an Australian television station,” Freifeld said. Had the Soderling match been finished when NBC came on the air, Freifeld said, Tennis Channel executives had agreed to let NBC show Federer. “It didn’t happen,” Freifeld said.
Tennis Channel benefited because it was able to show the Federer win at 1 p.m. PDT.