The network offers 140 hours of live coverage and 185 hours of encores
Tennis Channel is back at Roland Garros for its 16th French Open campaign, bringing with it a whole new production setup. In years past, Tennis Channel and its facility supplier brought in an army of equipment and spent two weeks building a large flypack for its Roland Garros production facility. This year, however, the rights holder of the US French Open has opted for a production truck and has moved into the NEP Ceres mobile unit.
“This is our 16th year at RG and our first year producing differently,” he says Bob Whyley, SVP, Producer/Executive Producer, Tennis Channel. “This year after working with our amazing partners at the FFT [Fédération Française de Tennis], we’ve gone from a flying kit to NEP’s dual-expando mobile unit, Ceres. And we didn’t miss a beat with the new setup. In fact it was the smoothest and cleanest start so thanks, [NEP President of U.S. Broadcast Services] Howie Rosenthal and his NEP team.”
Content Cavalcade: Over 2000 hours on TC, TC Plus, T2 and Bally Sports
With nightly sessions in their second year at Roland Garros, Tennis Channel has essentially become a ‘Roland Garros Channel’ for 15 days, with live matches running from early morning until evening and then repeating replays throughout the night.
As the tournament mid-weekend begins, Whyley and his team are on track to deliver over 140 hours of live coverage and 185 hours of encores over 15 days at Roland Garros, totaling 325 hours of linear content.
“There are 16 televised pitches, 128 players [singles] Draw for both men and women,” says Whyley. “There are men’s, women’s and mixed doubles, boys’ and girls’ junior singles and doubles, and wheelchair singles and doubles. Tennis is what we do. This is one of the biggest events in the world, but it’s also week 21 of daily live tennis production.”
In addition to the linear cable network, Tennis Channel Plus will have streamed an additional 1,500 hours of live coverage by the end of the tournament, including more than 600 games across 16 courts (all also available on-demand). TC is also delivering 80 hours of live streaming on its new channel, T2 FAST (Free Ad-supported Streaming TV), which launched on Samsung TV Plus in the US in March. Add an additional 36 hours of live delivered to Sinclair’s siblings Bally Sports regional networks and Tennis Channel platforms will be closed until the end of the men’s finals on June 5.
“Roland Garros, with its beautiful red clay, has so much live content,” says Whyley. “And all of that can be seen across the Tennis Channel world.”
On location in Paris, at home in Santa Monica and the fans returning to the stands
Tennis Channel has deployed around 100 staff on site at Roland Garros, including its star-studded commentary team. Meanwhile, an additional 40 crew members are based at Tennis Channel’s operations center in Santa Monica, CA, producing for Bally Sports’ regional networks, T2 and TC’s multi-court mosaic product. All editors are also located at Tennis Channel’s home base in Santa Monica.
At the heart of Tennis Channel’s operations in Paris is the NEP Ceres IP-based UHD HDR-enabled OB truck. Hit the road in 2018 as one of NEP’s first SMPTE ST 2110 compliant mobile units, the truck provides Tennis Channel with a powerful array of production facilities for a show that’s growing each year in Paris.
Since the truck is equipped with a Snell Advanced Media Kahuna Vision Mixer, which is seen more often in Europe than in the US, Tennis Channel flew TD Kris Castro and Jeff Backerman to London to train ahead of the event. “They really like the new system,” says Whyley.
As is usual for the network at Roland Garros, the Tennis Channel Live Tournament desk is on site with Host Steve Weissman, Analyst Chanda Rubinand Reporter/essayist Jon Wertheim Provision of live reports, analysis and player interviews.
New this year at the TC Live set, the production uses Ross Video’s Voyager virtual graphics rendering platform for on-desktop ad replacement (which is sponsored by Draft Kings). The engineering team also introduced a new Ross Video Xpression graphics system for this year TC Live Production.
Even with a new truck and a high-tech set in Paris, the biggest differentiator on this year’s shows does indeed come from outside of production: fans in the stands. The opening day attendance at the French Open was 32,453, compared to a maximum of 8,500 allowed per day at the site last year. And after debuting at last year’s tournament but mostly closed to spectators, the Night Sessions returns this year, with the Philippe-Chatrier Court packed to capacity every night so far.
“The spectators play an important role in the cast that makes up live tennis,” says Whyley. “We play to the energy and reactions of the fans. We are grateful to have her again. That makes a big difference.”