ESPN, Tennis Channel, NBC Sports Team Up for Extensive French Open Coverage

Headed into its final weekend, the French Open will have plenty of TV time in the U.S., with ESPN, Tennis Channel, and NBC Sports all playing a role in keeping tennis fans satiated. As always, it’s a bit of an extended family affair: resources are shared among all the parties. And ESPN and Tennis Channel have flipped the roles they had at the Australian Open.

“This is where we do the swap with the Tennis Channel as we come here and they are the lead partner and build out the production facility as well as interface with French TV,” says Jamie Reynolds, VP, event productions, ESPN. “There are a lot of people here at the party, and it is great for tennis and interesting to see the dynamics as we try and all take unique approaches to convey similar content.”

The schedule today exemplifies the networks’ TV-broadcast dance. Tennis Channel handles 6-9 a.m. ET coverage, and ESPN2 covering the action from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. NBC also has coverage from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with Tennis Channel coming on from 2 to 7 p.m. Earlier in the tournament, ESPN had the 5-10 a.m. slot, and Tennis Channel covered the action from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

From a technical perspective, there are not a lot of new toys this year. The ESPN workflow continues to be refined, and products like the Vizrt and Orad graphics engines keep viewers informed with legible scores and graphics analysis.

In fact, the biggest technical news is something viewers at home cannot even see: a 4K demo in which three cameras capture the action and deliver it to a 4K set under one of the courts.

Reynolds had a chance to see the demo and sees the potential, especially with preproduced material. “If and when the distribution system is in place … it could be stunning and dynamic,” he says. “And they did a test of satellite transmission, so, at least technically, there could be a distribution plan.”

With Tennis Channel handling many of the technical duties, the ESPN team can focus on its editorial needs. And, with Wimbledon next on the schedule, the French Open is an important opportunity for the talent and production teams to round into form.

“At Wimbledon, we will be driving two networks of coverage as well as Breakfast at Wimbledon and unique shows for the ABC network,” says Reynolds. “We need a deep roster to handle the fortnight of coverage so we are getting many directors and support personnel familiar with the storylines.”

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