Beginning in 2015, ESPN will be the exclusive rights holder for the entire Tennis U.S. Open thanks to an 11-year deal with the United States Tennis Association announced Thursday.
ESPN has televised approximately 100 hours of live US Open matches since 2009; now it will air over 130 hours, adding day-long coverage of the "middle weekend" -- Saturday, Sunday and Labor Day Monday -- plus both the men's and women's semifinals and finals. The tournament finals, and weekend play, had been carried by CBS since 1968.
Also starting in 2015, the women's semifinals will be played on a Thursday in primetime, with the men's semifinals taking place on Friday. The women's finals will be on Saturday and the men's finals on Sunday.
All telecasts will be available on ESPN's TV Everywhere offering, WatchESPN. ESPN also gains expanded digital rights, with every match on all 17 tournament courts available on ESPN3. Currently, six of the 17 courts have coverage.
With the deal,
ESPN will now have complete rights to the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. It shares coverage of the French Open with Tennis Channel and NBC, which airs that tournament's championships.
"Certain sporting events become synonymous with when they are held, and there is no better - or bigger - way to celebrate the end of summer than at the US Open in New York," said John Skipper, ESPN president and cochair of Disney Media Networks. "We look forward to capturing every match, every star, every championship and all the drama on this grand stage."
Sources peg the agreement's annual value at as much as $75 million. That's almost double the current combined outlay under which CBS and ESPN are paying $20 million apiece for Open rights. ESPN has offset some of those costs through a sublicensing deal with Tennis Channel, which airs some 70 live hours from the Open, as part of 250 overall with encore programming.
CBS Sports issued the following statement about the Open: "We are proud of our long-term association with the USTA and wish them well. Looking ahead, we have profitable partnerships with all of our key sports franchises locked up for many, many years to come, including the NFL, NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, SEC Football, PGA Tour and the PGA Championship. And in the meantime, we look forward to two more years of tennis on CBS."
Mike Reynolds (Multichannel News) contributed to this story