Tennis Channel and Verizon FiOS continue to volley negotiations for a new carriage pact.
The parties remain in ongoing discussions after Tennis' new contract with the National Cable Television Cooperative, calling for digital-basic carriage, went into effect on Sept. 4. Verizon, which had been part of NCTC's old nine-year contract with Tennis for sports tier placement that expired on Sept. 3, elected not to opt into the new deal. In turn, Tennis pulled its signal from Verizon, which had been proffering the network on its Ultimate level of service.
A Verizon spokesman said the company "did not choose to opt in to the NCTC agreement again after it expired. We are currently pursuing a separate carriage agreement with the Tennis Channel and talks are ongoing."
A Tennis spokesman noted that negotiations are continuing.
It was unclear whether a new contract would be finalized before Tennis concludes its 300 hours of coverage from the U.S. Tennis Championships in Flushing Meadows, New York.
Subscribers to Verizon, Cablevision and other distributors that did not elect to accept the terms of Tennis' new master contract with NCTC, missed the network's exclusive live primetime coverage of the Open, featuring No. 4 Andy Murray and No. 2 women's player Vera Zvonareva on Sunday night.
On Sunday morning, an NCTC spokesman stood by comments that he made last week, when he noted that "a significant number of members" had indicated that they would "discontinue" their relationship with Tennis. However, "many more members will renew than will drop," he said, without specifying the systems or the number of subscribers they service. He declined to elaborate on Sept. 4. Last month, Tennis and NCTC announced their new agreement that extends through 2016.
One MSO that is no longer on Tennis' side of the distribution net is Cablevision, which has had a tumultuous relationship with the service. Tennis said it is not currently negotiating with the New York metro area's predominant distributor.
After Tennis discontinued sending its standard- and high-definition signals to Cablevision around 12:05 a.m. on Sept. 4, the screen for the network's feed began showing the following statement over a background of two greenish,yellow tennis balls at around 12:30 a.m.: "Cablevision's contract with Tennis Channel has expired. Tennis Channel has decided not to renew our agreement and has unfortunately pulled their programming from our customers."
A second screen read: "You can still watch extensive, live coverage of the US Open on CBS, ESPN2 and in 3D on iO TV Ch. 1300. Streaming live matches will also be available free online at usopen.org." A third directed viewers to optimum.com/tennis for more details.
That messaging continued on Monday at 8:45 a.m.
Tennis chairman and CEO Ken Solomon, in an interview last week, said the network would "not pull the plug" and expressed hope that Cablevision would "abide by the new NCTC contract."
Tennis, which for years had been negotiating for better positioning with Cablevision, and later equivalent carriage of the MSO's high school sports service, MSG Varsity, has been part of the operator's sports tier for almost two years. Cablevision became an NCTC member on Aug. 26, 2009, just days before the Open opened that year, opting to place Tennis on its sports pack through NCTC's master affiliate pact.
However, the network said it had legal issues with Cablevision's unilaterally putting out a press release about its wont to launch the service and that it wasn't given a 30-day notification period to make its signal available. As such, Tennis elected not to authorize the signal and none of its 240 hours of coverage from its inaugural presentation of the U.S. Open was available to Cablevision subscribers.
Tennis finally granted the signal authorization on Sept. 24, 10 days after Juan Martin del Potro defeated Roger Federer to end that year's tournament by capturing the men's singles title.
Since then, Tennis has been available as part of the MSO's sports pack on standard-definition channel 399 and HD channel 795. That package, comprising 23 networks, retails for $6.95 per month. Sources indicate that some 150,000 of Cablevision's 3 million digital-cable customers subscribe to it.
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