2022 French Open: Tennis Channel Shifts to NEP’s Ceres Mobile Unit for 16th Year at Roland Garros
The network will offer 140 hours of live coverage, 185 hours of encores
Tennis Channel is back at Roland Garros for its 16th French Open campaign, and it’s bringing an entirely new production setup with it. In years past, Tennis Channel and its facilities provider brought in an army of equipment and spent two weeks building a large flypack for its Roland Garros production. This year, however, the French Open U.S. rightsholder has opted for a production truck, moving into NEP Ceres mobile unit.
“This is our 16th year at RG and our first year producing differently,” says Bob Whyley, SVP, production/executive producer, Tennis Channel. “This year, after cooperation with our great partners at the FFT [Fédération Française de Tennis], we’ve moved from a flight kit to NEP’s double-expando mobile unit Ceres. And we haven’t missed a beat with the new setup. In fact, it has been the smoothest and cleanest start, so thank you, [NEP President of U.S. Broadcast Services] Howie Rosenthal and his NEP team.”
Cavalcade of Content: 2000+ Hours on TC, TC Plus, T2, and Bally Sports
With night sessions in their second year at Roland Garros, Tennis Channel has essentially become a “Roland Garros Channel” for 15 days, with live matches running from early morning through the evening and then encore replays throughout the night.
Heading into the tournament’s middle weekend, Whyley and his team are on pace to deliver more than 140 hours of live coverage during 15 days at Roland Garros and 185 hours of encores, for a total of 325 hours of linear content.
“There are 16 televised courts, a 128-player [singles] draw for both the men and women,” says Whyley. “There’s men’s, women’s, and mixed doubles, boys’ and girls’ junior’s singles and doubles, plus wheelchair singles and doubles. Tennis is what we do. This is one of the greatest events in the world, but it’s also Week 21 of live day-to-day tennis production.”
In addition to the linear cable network, Tennis Channel Plus will also have streamed another 1,500 hours of live coverage by the time the tournament concludes, including more than 600 matches on 16 courts (all available on demand as well). TC is also delivering 80 live hours on its new T2 FAST (Free Ad-supported Streaming TV) Channel, which launched on Samsung TV Plus in the U.S. in March. Add in another 36 live hours supplied to Sinclair-owned sibling Bally Sports regional networks, and Tennis Channel platforms will deliver more than 1,750 hours of live French Open competition (and 2,000+ hours overall) by the time the Men’s Final ends on June 5.
“Roland Garros with its beautiful red clay features so much live content,” says Whyley. “And all of it can be seen across the Tennis Channel world.”
Onsite in Paris, At-Home in Santa Monica, and the Return of Fans in the Stands
Tennis Channel has deployed approximately 100 people onsite at Roland Garros, including its star-studded commentary team. Meanwhile, an additional 40 crew members are at Tennis Channel’s operations center in Santa Monica, CA, producing for Bally Sports regional networks, T2, and TC’s mosaic multi-court product. All editors also are located at Tennis Channel’s home base in Santa Monica.
At the core of Tennis Channel’s operation in Paris is NEP Ceres IP-based UHD HDR-capable OB truck. Having hit the road in 2018 as one of NEP’s first SMPTE ST 2110-compliant mobile units, the truck provides Tennis Channel with a powerful set of production facilities for a show that grows each year in Paris.
Since the truck features a Snell Advanced Media Kahuna Vision Mixer seen more often in Europe than in the U.S., Tennis Channel flew TDs Kris Castro and Jeff Backerman to London to train prior to the event. “They really like the new system,” says Whyley.
As is traditional for the network at Roland Garros, the Tennis Channel Live tournament desk is onsite with host Steve Weissman, analyst Chanda Rubin, and reporter/essayist Jon Wertheim providing live reports, analysis, and player interviews.
New this year at the TC Live set, the production is using Ross Video’s Voyager virtual-graphics–rendering platform for ad replacement on the desk (which is sponsored by Draft Kings). The engineering team has also brought in a new Ross Video Xpression graphics system for this year’s TC Live production.
Even with a new truck and a high-tech set in Paris, the biggest differentiator in this year’s broadcasts actually comes from outside the production: fans in the stands. Opening Day attendance at the French Open was 32,453, compared with a maximum of 8,500 allowed per day on the grounds last year. And, after debuting at last year’s tournament but closed to spectators for the most part, night sessions are back this year, with Philippe-Chatrier Court filled to capacity every night thus far.
“The crowds play a major role in the cast that makes up live tennis,” says Whyley. “We play off the energy and reactions of the fans. We’re grateful to have them back. It makes a big difference.”