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Tennis Channel Delivers Hybrid Subscription Service

Continuing to bolster its digital offerings, Tennis Channel is introducing a subscription service on opening day of the 2014 French Open.

Tennis Channel Plus will give subscribers access to 300 live matches from 40 tournaments around the globe, including a multi-court mosaic from Paris encompassing some 70 matches over an eight-day span. Opening up a new revenue stream for Tennis Channel, the service also includes an expansive on-demand menu of historic matches and network original programming.

Available for $59.99 annually or $9.99 for a one-day pass, Tennis Channel Plus will be housed within the network’s Tennis Channel Everywhere app. This hybrid model -- MLB and the NBA proffer digital out-of-market pay packages, while WWE has launched a digital subscription network trading on a monthly charge – will give Tennis Channel Everywhere affiliates a share of the proceeds when certain customer thresholds are reached. Tennis Channel didn’t disclose those numbers or attendant revenue splits.

Adam Ware, senior vice president, head of digital media, Tennis Channel, said Tennis Channel Plus is a complementary service to the linear channel, and enables the independent network to more fully exploit its rights, while better accommodating the game’s most fervid fans.

Given the international nature of the tennis calendar, in which various tournaments unfold simultaneously from different time zones, the linear service can’t present all of the matches. “Most sports and tennis fans want the live experience,” said Ware. “Tennis Channel Plus gives them a chance to see many more matches than we can present on the network.”

Ware said the product is unique. “Tennis Channel Plus does two things no one else is doing. It offers a host of additional live matches and has an extensive on-demand menu,” he explained. “Subscribers can select what they want to see, or watch a curated schedule. Either way, it’s an enhanced experience for hard-core fans.

Its additional French Open presentations aside, Tennis Channel Plus will air exclusive Davis and Fed Cup action as tennis international team competitions play out concurrently. There will also be early-round action from ATP 250 and WTA International events, most of it live; other matches will appear on a delayed basis to protect contractual agreements with linear affiliates.

Tennis Channel Plus subscribers can also summon thousands of hours of on-demand matches, both recent and classic: Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, Chris Evert against Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras versus Andre Agassi. Archived episodes of current series – Tour Guide and Tennis Channel Academy – plus vintage installments of earlier shows such as Center Court with Chris Myers will be available. So, too will the network's perennial short-form components: "Bag Check" and "Court Report."

The first serve for Tennis Channel Plus comes just a year after the network entered the app world, as it made live-streaming of its matches from the French Open, of which it is the primary U.S. cable rights-holder, available for free.

“There were 125,000 downloads of the app through which tennis fans could live-stream our matches,” said Adam Ware, senior vice president, head of digital media, Tennis Channel. “So, we knew there was an appetite.”

The independent network, which currently counts 35 million subscribers, 50 million during its expanded freeview period during the French on DirecTV and Dish, moved into the TVE arena by last summer’s U.S. Open, when it launched Tennis Channel Everywhere to Verizon FiOS and National Cable Television Cooperative subscribers.

Dish and DirecTV subscribers were subsequently added to the Tennis Channel Everywhere court, and the service debuted for Cox customers last week, in time for this year’s French. Another TVE launch with a major distributor is expected shortly.

Ware noted that marketing for Tennis Channel Plus, which will be seen on the network’s air and website, is also taking place at the grass roots level. “There will be a huge push at tennis clubs and with the USTA,” he said.

The United States Tennis Association holds a minority stake in Tennis Channel.