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Tennis Is Served

Expected to launch just after the first of the year, The Tennis Channel is banking on more than terrific tennis: It's counting on a terrific demo.

"It's very targeted, high-end and a great demo for advertisers," says Bruce Rider, Tennis Channel executive vice president, programming and marketing. "We've had tremendous support from the whole tennis industry because they know that having a tennis channel helps every aspect of the business, from tournaments and players that need exposure to manufacturers that want outlets to their customers."

The Tennis Channel's eventual permanent home will be headquartered somewhere in West Los Angeles, with the network operating out of an interim home for the first few months. Planning for the new facility is under way, with many decisions still to be made. Plans include a 6,000-square-foot sound stage as well as post-production facilities based on Apple's Final Cut Pro nonlinear editing system. which continues to show gains in popularity among professional broadcast organizations.

"We're going to do a large percentage of our programming from our facility," says Rider. "We'll do a daily half-hour news show as well as live talk shows, interview shows and demonstration shows."

Tennis tournaments will also be a major attraction for viewers. The tennis season is 11 months long and has 150 tournaments a year, giving the network ample live and tape-delayed offerings. "Some will be reformatted for later play and some repeated in prime time or tightened up a bit," adds Rider.

Fox Sports Net coordinating producer Larry Meyers will head much of the content development and production. The Tennis Channel staff currently stands at about 25 but, once productions kick off, will grow by almost another 50.

"Any matches we produce, we'll have commentators there," says Rider. "If it's an international event, we'll make the choice" whether to send them there or have them do commentary from Los Angeles.

The network also has exclusive rights to 14 domestic tournaments—although the Grand Slam events will need to be covered in a similar way to ESPN's handling of the Super Bowl or the Golf Channel's of PGA and LPGA majors. "We don't have any broadcast rights," says Rider, "but we'll be reporting from the event, and we'll have a presence there with interviews, highlights and updates."

Classic matches and player profiles are also planned to be in the mix. The network has more than 100 matches from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s in its library and even some highlights from the 1950s and 1960s.