Where’s the Tennis on TV?
by Sean Randall | November 7th, 2005, 11:41 pm
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With the televised MNF madness that is the New England Patriots and the Indy Colts no longer suspenseful, I thought i’d take a moment to reflect upon the state of tennis on TV in the U.S….Okay, done.

ESPN TennisThat was quick, as there isn’t much to reflect on as there hasn’t been a single ATP or WTA tennis match televised in the U.S. since the conclusion of Davis Cup in late September.

For those that don’t remember, the U.S. defeated Belgium back on the 25th of September, the last time tennis was on real (non-Tennis Channel) TV in the U.S. That’s over 40 days folks.

Wonder why tennis is in the dumps in the U.S.? There’s your answer.

Imagine if the NFL went dark for 40 days during the season without any games on TV. Or hockey, baseball or even golf, which during this the “silly season” still gets full coverage by U.S. networks on the weekends.

Sure things finally change tomorrow as the WTA championships begin midnight Tuesday on ESPN2 with Maria Sharapova and Patty Schnyder opening the event. But the reality is, it’s too little too late.

For just about the entire country, tennis went off the radar screen after the US Open, and with the Masters Cup in Shanghai this year the sport will likely not return prominence on the sport pages until the Australian Open.

I know The Tennis Channel has shown plenty of tennis this fall, but who really saw it? Unfortunately at the moment their service reaches too few people. Further, they have gobbled up several events like Madrid and Paris which ESPN use to televise many years ago.

Now missing out on those and other events isn’t causing ESPN to lose any sleep, afterall this is their cashcow football season. But it would be nice for fans to be able to follow the sport and allow for some sort of “lead in” to the year-end championships to give some continuity to the season close.

Instead, just when interest in tennis peaks during the US Open, that’s when also when it effectively goes off the air for two months and we go in cold to two season-enders. Too bad…

So what’s the answer, the solution?

In the U.S. it’s simple. Don’t bother ESPN, don’t bother your local TV networks and regional tennis events. Rather, beg your cable and satellite service to get The Tennis Channel. Send them money, send them a X-mas present or your leftover Halloween candy.

The more homes that have The Tennis Channel, the more people will watch. The more people that watch, the more of a chance they’ll take to the sport and become a fan. And of course the more fans this sport has, the more they’ll buy racquets and balls and tickets to tournaments and ultimately grow the game which in turn will get tennis on network and national cable TV and we’ll come full circle.

Till then, I hope you ready for some more football?

- Sean

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