Last week on Off the Baseline, I wrote up a quick post on the conundrum I encountered when trying to watch the Andy Roddick-Marat Safin match, aka the night match in Melbourne. Tonight, fans will endure the same punishments when Roddick meets world number one Roger Federer in the night match.
The basic premise of my post was about the notion of waking up the roosters to watch live action versus watching the replay later in the day. Some of the issues included things like ‘How do you avoid knowing the result?’ and ‘Is it worth it to watch it via DVR?’
You know, the “hard-hitting” questions.
Anyway, as I usually do, I took a swipe at ESPN’s coverage, and how tennis fans can’t really even rely on YouTube anymore for homespun highlights. This brought on a torrent of emails from friends, and a few comments on the site itself, about ESPN’s coverage and YouTube; the least of which included how ESPN’s double scheduling was of no help since it’s nearly impossible for most people to watch tennis at 3pm no less 3am.
Fans seem to be bitter at ESPN. Very bitter. For the record, I’m also slightly bitter about YouTube. As discussed previously, YouTube has been going vigilante on sports videos. Seems Tennis Australia and YT have been working together to remove videos from their site, and my YT account was recently suspended due to some videos I posted from last year’s Aussie Open. (Do they read the X-Blog? Well, let’s hope so!)
Televised offerings are a difficult enough nut to crack when dealing with live events on the other side of the world. For sports fans who use the Web though, it’s painful to see the online scoreboard telling you one thing, and have to tune into televised coverage that sparks up an hour later — at the beginning of a match that you know is almost cooked.
I haven’t seen the ratings for the Australian yet, but they can’t be good. You don’t have to be a genius to know that the relationship between ESPN and tennis is starting to seriously reach the tipping point. They didn’t dump Roland Garros for naught, nor are tennis fans circulating Web links of where to complain to ESPN solely for giggles.
But FWIW, there is hope. USA Networks did a pretty good job during the US Open last year. Anecdotally, I was away during Labor Day weekend, and managed to catch a bit via my friend’s DirecTV subscription when I could. The service allowed you to watch a bunch of different courts, with no commentary — and with picture-in-picture, so you could view a few matches at the same time. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was pouring buckets in NY, causing them to reply the Agassi-Baghdatis match five times, I would have gladly traded my mountain air to stay inside for some live tennis action.
Basically, USA’s coverage was what we should have in the US at every Slam. In fact, I wouldn’t be complaining if USA/NBC picked up coverage for all the Slams. Hells, I’d spring for DirecTV! If offered multi-court coverage on digital cable, I’d have no problem dealing with Mary Carillo’s open-mic commentary about how she’s going to get fired. I’m not picky. I just want to be able to see the match. (NBC, are you reading this?)
Like many people, I’m also leery of the coverage Roland Garros will receive on The Tennis Channel, and pray it doesn’t look like public access cable. I hate to say this, but the only thing the network seems to be good for is Cup Coverage, which no other network wants anyway. What kind of commentary is it that when you turn on the tennis network during the Australian Open you’re treated to repeats of a reality show? For the life of me, I still don’t understand why they can’t do a nightly SportsCenter-type broadcast recapping the day in tennis news… but, alas, that’s another post entirely.
Fans were also predictably po’d at the lack of live TV coverage and headed to the Web in droves, in search of live streaming video. Maybe it’s me, but it seems somewhat unfathomable that a service like Masters Series TV exists, which provides live streams of all of the MS events; but that there is no “Grand Slams TV” Web streaming service. If some happy entity is looking to make a buck, I think we’ve found a market niche. Ah, but, good luck cutting through those contracts.
That’s not to say that MS TV was any picnic. As a Mac user, no option was given to handle my operating system. Sure, I can, and do, also run Windows on my computer to accomodate for such ridiculously lame software, but not everyone does that. The complaints from many of the fans who signed up for the service with all the right software are countless enough to keep people like me away.
Should all matches be on the web, live and streaming in a video format that reaches all OS platforms? I think so. Absolutely. As I think back on what we were all complaining about during last year’s Aussie Open though, I don’t see things getting any better or any different.
Okay, now it’s your turn. I’m curious. I know this blog is read by fans all over the world, many of who don’t suffer the same pains as Americans. I can’t speak to your experience, so you tell me: How do you get your Australian Open coverage? Online? TV? Both? What works best for you?
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2009 Australian Open TV Schedule
2010 Australian Open TV Schedule
2013 Australian Open TV Schedule: ESPN2, Tennis Channel
2008 French Open TV Schedule
Tennis on TV — June 2007 Schedule