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U.S. Open Requires Lots of Volleying For ESPN Schedulers

FLUSHING, N.Y. — Serving up every match of the U.S. Open Grand Slam tennis tournament over the next week should be an automatic ace for ESPN. Yet as ESPN senior director of programming Sonia Gomez told The Wire, sometimes scheduling the best matches at the ideal times isn’t an easy score.

With foreign U.S. Open TV rightsholders also looking to get the best slots in their time zones to showcase their hometown star’s matches, Gomez said the network is constantly in touch with the United States Tennis Association about match schedules.

ESPN will televise 130-plus hours of exclusive U.S. Open action through Sept. 11 on its TV networks, as well as its digital offerings including Watch ESPN.

“There’s definitely times where it doesn’t work out for us, whether it’s the U.K. looking for the best time for Andy Murray — putting him on as the last match of the day is going to be hard for that U.K. audience — and we understand that. The [USTA] has been great about granting our asks, but we’ve also been told that they have numerous mouths to feed.”

The network also has to make sure its U.S. Open coverage doesn’t conflict with live college football, NFL or MLB coverage.

“It’s kind of a puzzle schedule for us because we have college football kicking off and MLB closing out, so from a linear standpoint you have those windows and we know what they are,” she said. “We really work closely with the USTA to try to slot in the matches — they don’t necessarily have to listen to us, but they are great partners and they help us in putting someone like a Serena Williams at night because of our primetime coverage.”