The Medium is the Message
Industry insiders hope that the 24-hour Tennis Channel has the power and visibility to help the game grow among players and fans.
Looking back on The Tennis Channel’s first year in operation, Executive Vice President of Programming and Marketing Bruce Rider acknowledged that significant progress has been made. Despite the ever-growing variety of programming, however, he says he is far from satisfied.
“My goal is to improve the network on a weekly basis,” says Rider, who was the first employee hired three years ago by Tennis Channel Founder and President Steve Bellamy (above, left), Chairman and CEO David Meister and CFO/Executive Vice President John Brady. “We’ve come a long way as a result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people, and the depth of our current programming may surprise people. But we’re not done yet.”
Jim Baugh, president of the Tennis Industry Association, says he is enjoying seeing The Tennis Channel shows “popping up in TV listings all over the place.”
“Sports live and die with people playing at the local level,” Baugh says, “and The Tennis Channel has the power to motivate more people to get involved.”
USTA President Alan Schwartz, who was interviewed during The Tennis Channel’s first live telecast in April 2003 from the Fed Cup tie in Lowell, Mass., applauds the market penetration already achieved by The Tennis Channel. It is currently available in 175 markets and 4.2 million households, tracking toward 10 million households by the end of the year. Approximately 75 percent of U.S. cable subscribers have access to The Tennis Channel through 22 different cable companies nationwide.
“Only through the persistence and determination of Steve Bellamy has The Tennis Channel come into being, and it is already established as a legitimate player on the tennis scene,” says Schwartz, noting that Bellamy was an invited speaker at the USTA’s recent annual meeting in Puerto Rico. “His primary concern is the growth of tennis, which is consistent with our mission. It’s clear The Tennis Channel is the answer to the gap in the tennis communication business that has not been filled until now.”
Since The Tennis Channel launched last spring, according to Rider, there has been an ongoing search for innovative shows that would complement, rather than duplicate, what is currently broadcast. He credits the support of the tennis industry, including the ATP and WTA Tour, with the success in establishing a strong lineup of tournament coverage.
In 2004, The Tennis Channel is scheduled to air more than 2,500 hours of international tournament competition including: the Tennis Masters Series Europe (Monte Carlo, Rome, Hamburg, Madrid and Paris) and nearly a dozen additional ATP stops; 13 top-tier WTA tournaments as well as the Family Circle Cup, Kroger St. Jude, Bank of the West Classic, JP Morgan Chase Open and Acura Classic; the Fed Cup, Davis Cup and Hopman Cup; World TeamTennis; Delta senior tour; and junior, Intercollegiate Tennis Association, Futures and Challengers events. The Tennis Channel also covers table tennis, racquetball, squash, badminton, and paddle tennis.
Equally important for tennis viewers, Rider says, is player involvement that provides a unique insight into the technical and social aspects of the game. While recuperating from foot surgery over the winter, Justin Gimelstob provided live commentary, conducted on-court interviews, co-hosted the Hopman Cup preview with Corina Morariu, participated in The Tennis Insiders panel discussion, and delivered a behind-the-scenes look at tournaments like the Siebel Open in San Jose and the Kroger St. Jude in Memphis as host of the Open Access series.
Because of the variety of programming available, Rider says, players can be matched with programming segments that best suit their skills and comfort level. For example, it didn’t make sense to engage Rafael Nadal — who is still learning English — in a lengthy, one-on-one interview. Instead, the Spanish teenager opted to give viewers a look into his off-court lifestyle on the original series No Strings. Regular on-air talent also includes former tour players Katrina Adams, Geoff Grant and Leif Shiras.
“Everyone has a different interest in how they want to work with us,” says Rider. “The support has been great because they know our No. 1 mission, from day one, has been to grow the game. If we can do that, more people will play, buy racquets and go to tournaments. Everyone wins. We just have to keep getting the word out.”
To request The Tennis Channel, visit thetennischannel.com or call your local cable operator.
Tuning in to The Tennis Channel
Chances are you have a TV at your facility, so wouldn’t it make sense to keep it tuned to The Tennis Channel? When your members and players aren’t on the court, or shopping for merchandise in your retail area, keep the sport top of mind for them by tuning the TV to the TTC. Here are some of the programs you’ll find on The Tennis Channel:
- ATP … Tennis
- This weekly series follows the action on the ATP tour, offering tournament highlights, feature stories, coaching tips, and more.
- Bag Check
- Ever wonder what’s inside your favorite player’s racquet bag? Some of the top pros reveal what they carry around with them.
- Center Court w/ Chris Myers
- Emmy-award-winning sports journalist Chris Myers talks candidly with some of the game’s greatest stars, coaches, and legends. Recent guests include Serena Williams, Roger Federer, the Bryan brothers, Sebastien Grosjean, Daniela Hantuchova, Tim Henman, Nadia Petrova, and John Lloyd.
- Girls on Tour
- Experience the behind-the-scenes drama of women’s tennis with a look into the inner workings of the WTA Tour from Europe to the South Pacific.
- Inside Tennis with the Koz
- Dave Kozlowski, the USTA’s “Broadcaster of the Year” for 2000, provides an upbeat and lighthearted show offering tennis tips, in-depth interviews with top players, and more.
- Match Point america
- Winner of the USTA’s National Media Excellence Award, this magazine show serves up weekly highlights of the most memorable tournament play and the athletes who grind it out week after week on the professional circuits.
- No Strings
- Spend time off the court exploring the personal lives of pros such as Pete Sampras, Maria Sharapova, James Blake, Rafael Nadal, Tommy Haas and Taylor Dent.
- One Minute Clinic
- Former WTA and ATP coaches Jose Higueras, Brad Stein, Robert Van’t Hof, and other top coaches demonstrate through live-action drills the proper technique for executing beginner to advanced shots, strategies, and tactics.
- Open Access 04
- This original series goes on tour to gain a first-hand account of the top players outside the lines at the sport’s greatest venues, providing a unique look at the glamorous life of the WTA and ATP tours.
- Pro File
- Get the inside scoop on the hottest players from both tours, from their coaches, competitors, family, and friends.
- Tennis Insiders
- Taped on location at ATP and WTA tournaments, this monthly series features a spirited discussion between leading tennis pundits on current issues affecting the game. A mixed panel of former and current professional players, coaches, agents, and other industry representatives take turns addressing the state of the game.
- On court with USPTA
- This instructional series offers tennis tips to help players of all levels fine-tune their games.
- Dennis Van der Meer
- PTR president and founder Van der Meer is an industry leader in educating, certifying, and servicing tennis teachers and coaches.
See all articles by Cynthia Cantrell
About the Author
Cynthia Cantrell is a contributing editor of Tennis Industry magazine.
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