As a rabid tennis fan, I'm happy to see the first big open tournament of the season in order to see how players are doing after a crazy 2009.
I am even happier that the Tennis Channel and NBC can't ruin it with their sub-par broadcasting. ESPN and CBS really know how to present sports: in general I am not inundated with too much fluff or off-topic talk. If I want to know who's dating whom or what kind of fashion the people wear, I can turn to E or pick up a gossip rag. When I'm watching sports, I want to hear about the sports. Tell me how they train. That's ok. Tell me what they eat. Passable. Tell me about the issues facing the game or rules and regs that may change. Good. DON'T bother me with hair product (Gimmestob's obsession last year with Verdasco. A line of commentary meant to be a joke that wasn't, and it went on longer than Energizer's bunny.) Don't tell me about the flavor of the month whom a player is dating. Not interested, especially during points. Want to do extracurricular stuff? OK. Do it in a pre-game or post game show. Not during the event.
So, ESPN will be broadcasting most of the event, with the Tennis Channel picking up the slack. It's really sad. Tennis Channel had a real opportunity here. However, unlike the NBA, NFL and MLB channels, they squandered it. Instead of focusing on tennis broadcasting and providing info on the game, it's turned into a mash-up of racket sport shows. There's an MTV Cribs knockoff, a travel show (not bad, but why?), documentaries (nice, at least), racketball and squash matches/tourneys (unecessary filler for a channel named after tennis ) and a host of infomercials. They got some top talent (Connors, Navratilova, for example), and they are on the sidelines. Maybe they wanted it that way, but it's kind of odd, given their career history and their general proactivity on issues and sports politics. The NBA and NFL had a lot of original programming and benefitted from films they themselves produce. MLB has been building itself with similar programming and new shows based solely on the game. Tennis channel has not. The "Academy" show aside, it has done little to create original programming on the game or create a niche for programming that already exists. For example, ESPN is showing last year's Australian Open matches leading up to the event in order to warm people up and give them an idea of what might be this year. Tennis Channel is not. It's taken a "Oh, by the way, the Australian Open is on some time soon..."
So, once again, if you want your sports, turn to ESPN or CBS. They can be dry at times. They can be a non-sports fan's nightmare with how focused they are. But you are getting sports. All of it. From people who like the sports they are broadcasting, know something about the games, and understand a fan's desire to take it all in.
Tennis Channel on the Sidelines. Again.
Posted on: January 16, 2010 12:25 pm