Tennis Channel is branching out, launching Tennis Channel Plus, a 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination in time for the French Open. The platform can be accessed through the network’s Tennis Channel Everywhere app or through-www.tennischanneleverywhere.com for $59.99 for the season. The platform is designed to offer programming that includes 300 live matches from close to 40 tournaments around the world, including ATP 250 and WTA International events as well as exclusive Davis Cup and Fed Cup coverage as well as classic on-demand events.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with Adam Ware, Senior Vice President and head of digital media at Tennis Channel, about the launch and how it impacts the future of the network.
Ware on TVE: The TVE story has been terrific for us and we have buy-in from the affiliates. Next week, 75% of our distribution will be able to authenticate the TVE. So this has been great, we’ve seen data that is slightly ahead of the industry average. We are seeing good usage with a majority on iOS. We are seeing the iPhone being the dominant way to use it with the iPad coming up behind it. We are seeing long session times and we are finding that because of the nature of the sport, with so much of it is on when people aren’t really watching television, the ability to watch live streaming is something that is very valuable to them.
On creating the platform: At the same time we launched the TVE initiative, one of the things I looked at was the fan and how we could possible deliver all this tennis to them, wherever they may be. We then looked at how we complete the coverage, whether it is five courts at the same time at the French Open, or whether that is coverage where we just don’t have enough room on a single channel to put all this content up. We are talking about some great content from the cups, the WTA Tour, the ATP, and so on.
On options: There were really three paths that we could take. One path, which most large companies would do, would be to go launch another channel where we could put all of this addition coverage so that the fan could get virtually all tennis that’s played. We looked at that and wondered to ourselves if this was really the right time to go launch another channel and the economic really didn’t make sense. Option two was to do a simple streaming version of this, but if you chose that path, how do you go about doing that? Do you just do another authenticated feed? Or do you just completely go over-the-top like the WWE. The trouble with another feed is that we don’t get paid nearly the same out as ESPN does and there weren’t enough dollars to support it. Was there a hybrid model? This was a model where we could use streaming as a basis to offer a complete serviced that would complement the existing Tennis Channel schedule, a model that would allow use to go directly to the consumer but doesn’t threaten the ecosystem that we are part of.
On content: We wanted to take some of the best that we learned from MLB and NBA and so on, and put together a product that is relevant, has a lot of live hours to it, a lot of on-demand hours to it. Let’s do multiple courts where there are multiple courts. Let’s build this out and offer it to the consumer so they can buy it directly. So we have a new app launching on it are three basic segments. One segment is the authenticated feed; the second part of this is TC Plus, with 300 additional live matches throughout the year; and the third featured around 1000 hours of on-demand matches available.