ITF and USTA scramble late US Davis Cup TV deal

The specialised US cable station, the Tennis Channel has signed a new multi-year deal, believed to be three years, with the International Tennis Federation (ITF), to broadcast U.S. Davis Cup ties domestically. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) manages America's Davis Cup team and was also..........click headline for more

The specialised US cable station, the Tennis Channel has signed a new multi-year deal, believed to be three years, with the International Tennis Federation (ITF), to broadcast U.S. Davis Cup ties domestically. Length of contract: 3 years | Annualised value: US$100,000 | Overall: US$300,000

The specialised US cable station, the Tennis Channel has signed a new multi-year deal, believed to be three years, with the International Tennis Federation (ITF), to broadcast U.S. Davis Cup ties domestically.

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) manages America's Davis Cup team and was also party to the deal.

The new deal means that all three ITF promoted competitions, the Davis Cup, the Fed Cup and the Hopman Cup will be broadcast on the Tennis Channel in the United States.

Previously, the Tennis Channel only held time-delayed rights to US Davis Cup ties. The live deal was held by the Versus network and before that ESPN. Both ESPN and Versus have now dropped their coverage of Davis Cup competition. An insider said: "The Tennis Channel has effectively inherited this deal after no one else wanted it."

Despite the lack of interest, the channel says that the first broadcast is "highly-anticipated" and will feature the USA's first-round Davis Cup tie, led by Patrick McEnroe, against a Swiss squad on the 6th to 8th March 2009 at the Birmingham-Jefferson convention centre.

The matches will be broadcast in high definition with what it is calling "short and long-form ancillary programming," - whatever that is. John McEnroe will commentate for the Tennis Channel. The matches will also be broadcast delayed on the website www.tennischannel.com the day after.

Pierce O'Neil, USTA chief business officer said: "It is fitting that the sport's namesake network will be the television home for U.S. Davis Cup competition, one of the most exciting team competitions in all of sport."

But in truth, many believe the Davis Cup is a tired competition of little interest to sports fans. Without the Tennis Channel's existence it would almost certainly not have found a live broadcast deal. 

Ken Solomon, chairman of the Tennis Channel, gamely said: "Davis Cup is to tennis what the World Cup is to soccer or Ryder Cup is to golf, and among the most exciting, dramatic team contests in the world."