The Tennis Channel unveiled an annual digital subscription service – Tennis Channel Plus – on 5/25: opening day of the 2014 French Open. Available to all U.S.-based digital users, the service can be accessed through the network’s Tennis Channel Everywhere app or through www.tennischanneleverywhere.com.
In conjunction with the start of the French Open, Tennis Channel Plus gave tennis fans additional access to the Roland Garros action with an eight-day multi-court mosaic that has over 70 live matches available. Throughout the year, users have access to content that’s not available anywhere else – not even on Tennis Channel. Programming offered on Tennis Channel Plus for subscribers includes 300 live matches from close to 40 tournaments around the world, including ATP 250 and WTA International events as well as exclusive Davis Cup and Fed Cup coverage.
In addition to live highlight clips from these tournaments, users can watch thousands of hours of on-demand matches, both recent and classic.
Besides live, recent and classic match content, subscribers can tune into Tennis Channel original programming. Archived episodes of current series – Tour Guide and Tennis Channel Academy – classic episodes of earlier shows such as Center Court with Chris Myers as well as viewer-favorites Bag Check and Court Report will be available all year-round.
The service is $59.99 for the season and complements what is already on the network’s air for users while simultaneously creating a new distribution model for affiliating operators. This new hybrid model gives the network’s Tennis Channel Everywhere distribution partners the chance to become profit participants in the network’s digital subscription service without any upfront costs or linear-channel commitment.
“Tennis Channel has created the first TV Everywhere and digital subscription service in one app to not only keep up with fans’ desire to see more tennis more of the time but to also enhance their viewing experience with tennis – a sport that is constant, with overlapping matches in international time zones,” said Adam Ware, senior vice president, head of digital media, Tennis Channel. “This service not only allows fans to access their Tennis Channel subscription through authenticated TV Everywhere but also purchase additional premium programming on an a la carte basis, in which our affiliates are profit participants. We believe we’ve created a new business model for this evolving sports-media ecosystem.”
The network launched the Tennis Channel Everywhere app – free to all Apple and Android users – on opening day of last year’s French Open, and saw it surge to the top three in all sports-app downloads within days of its introduction. Beginning with the first day of US Open play in August, the network unveiled a TV Everywhere function for authenticated network subscribers. In just one year since the launch of the Tennis Channel Everywhere app, 75% of the network’s subscriber base can access TV Everywhere through the app. Tennis Channel is in talks with other operators to get 100% of its viewers access to TV Everywhere.
RBR-TVBR observation: Seems like a good revenue model for MVPDs carrying the channel. TV Everywhere is where viewing is heading for all networks, but the MVPDs have to have a profit incentive to sign on the dotted line. Some have criticized TV Everywhere as extending the existing reach of MVPDs to the internet so it can curtail cord cutters dropping service in favor of terrestrial Internet VOD services.
TV Everywhere systems utilize accounts provided by a user’s respective MVPD provider—which are used to verify whether the user is a subscriber to a particular channel, allowing access to the content. If this model is currently the only way to head to a 24/7 streaming of network programming—so be it, for now. But the new TV set is the smartphone and tablet. If networks want their ratings to increase, programming needs to be available everywhere these devices can be carried—on-demand and live.