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By Alberto Amalfi

© Tony Chang/Chang Photography

(November 8, 2010) The Grand Slam network has acquired television rights for Indian Wells and Miami — and the ATP is paying the price for the three-year pact that puts the Masters 1000 events back on ESPN2 starting next March.

Both the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and Sony Ericsson Open in Miami are paying for air time on ESPN2, according to a published report in SportsBusiness Journal written by Daniel Kaplan.

The two tournaments, which had been televised by Fox Sports Net and Tennis Channel (TC will continue to televise some matches from both events) for the past two years, will also have a much more significant presence online as ESPN3.com will offer extensive live match coverage, according to SportsBusiness Journal.

"Tennis doesn’t necessarily have to buy its way onto TV, but you have to buy to get the best TV time for our product," Sony Ericsson Open tournament director Adam Barrett told SportsBusiness Journal.

The deal is significant because it illustrates the increasing challenges tournaments face to gain television exposure in a crowded sports landscape. When ESPN relinquished rights for both Indian Wells and Miami it pointed to the fact its college basketball coverage in March diminished available hours for tennis though some speculated the network simply wasn't willing to pay the price the ATP was asking for Indian Wells and Miami rights

The ATP contacted Fox Sports Net two years ago and it televised the Masters 1000 tournaments that annually attract the highest attendance of any tournament outside of the four majors.

Tennis officials were dissatisfied with the unpredictable nature of Fox Sports Net's coverage. Because regional networks form Fox Sports Net, its coverage hours of the two events varied from market to market.

The acquisition of Indian Wells and Miami strengthens ESPN's tennis portfolio as the Grand Slam Network already owns or shares cable rights to all four Grand Slam events.

ESPN2 will televise the Indian Wells' men’s and women’s semifinals with ABC airing the Indian Wells' finals. ESPN2 will present live coverage of the Miami quarterfinals and semifinals, with CBS retaining its rights for the Miami finals.

Tennis Channel and ESPN3.com will also provide match coverage, according to SportsBusiness Journal, which reports ESPN2 will begin running promotional ads for its coverage of the tournaments in January, likely during its Australian Open coverage.

Meanwhile, CBS continues to negotiate its US Open rights deal with the USTA and is reportedly seeking a reduction in the rights fees it pays the White Plains, N.Y.-based Tennis Association.

Ivan Ljubicic defeated
Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick in succession to win his first career Masters 1000 championship at Indian Wells in March. Roddick beat Nadal and Tomas Berdych to reclaim the Key Biscayne crown he won in 2004. 

Jelena Jankovic defeated Caroline Wozniacki in the Indian Wells' women's final. Kim Clijsers crushed Venus Williams to win Miami.

 

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