Having trouble finding a broadcast feed of your favorite tournament? Take heart, maybe it’s one of the many events TennisTV.com will broadcast online this year.
There’s so much going on at the moment that I can barely figure out where to direct my attention. Tomorrow the US will swear in its first black president. My local village – meaning the eclectic group of people who live up under the Hollywood sign – will drag out a large TV and gather in front of the village grocery store to watch the swearing in. As the event announcement said, it’s not something to watch alone.
Then there’s the Australian Open which started on Sunday Aussie time/Saturday US time. A slimmer Andy Roddick is through the first round, a taller Juan Martin del Potro is also through, Gilles Muller beat Feliciano Lopez 16-14 in the fifth set (that adds up to 30 games by the way), and I’m gearing up to see if young Aussie Bernard Tomic can possibly emerge from the tennis-mad media blitz down under with his psyche intact. As far as I can tell, his first ever professional match was the qualifying event for last year’s Aussie Open and this year they gave him a wild card into the main draw. Oy, what are doing to this boy?
I will get to all that in the next few days but first I want to look at the state of tennis broadcasting by looking at TennisTV.com, a new internet channel that will broadcast 35 ATP and WTA tournaments in 2009 and even more in 2010. (Here’s a list of this year’s tournaments.) No longer will I have to stay up until 2am watching camel racing in Dubai so I can track down an illegal feed of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships and then, when I find it, strain my aging eyes looking at a grainy postage stamp-sized screen trying to figure out if the ball was in or out since, for some reason or other, I never found time to learn Arabic and thus do not understand a word the commentators say.
No, I can just pay $129.95 for a year’s subscription and watch the ATP Masters 1000 events, both the women’s and men’s year-end championships, and a number of other events in between. Or I can pay $84.95 to watch just the men’s events or $69.95 to watch just the women’s events. There are lots of issues to look at here and in this day and age, first and foremost is economics.
I already pay a premium to get the Tennis Channel from my satellite provider and now I’ll have to pay more. Then there’s the technology. If I watch a match on my satellite TV feed, I can record it on my digital video recorder. I can’t do that on the web. Yet. There are a number of programs that will record directly off a computer screen but they frequently freeze up and, in any case, you’d have to get up in the middle of the night and start the recording mechanically because their scheduling features don’t work yet.
I don’t know about TennisTV yet because its season doesn’t start until early February with the WTA event in Paris and the ATP event in Rotterdam, but the ATP Masters Series TV website charged an extra fee to watch past events when it was broadcasting the Masters events online.
Having said that, I sometimes pay a fee to watch a web feed for one of the many, many events I can’t find on TV and those events are more likely to turn up on TennisTV. And that’s how I think this will all work out.
Sooner rather than later, we’ll be watching every tennis match online. Sporting events, and broadcasting in general, are migrating to the internet. If you missed an episode of the Simpsons you can point your computer at Hulu.com and catch up. Or you can take your iPod out of your pocket and indulge in Entourage on Itunes. Rather than having to pay for hunting shows on the Versus channel so you can get the sports package which has the Tennis Channel, you’ll be able to pay for tennis matches only online.
And that’s a good thing because, currently, satellite and cable providers have too much power. I recently had to sign up for a new two year contract just because I upgraded to HD. I liked watching the summer Olympics online at my leisure and I’m going to enjoy watching tennis online.
Oh yeah, and speaking of the Aussie Open, rather than switching back and forth and picking up points here and there in matches featuring, mostly, US tennis players on ESPN2 and the Tennis Channel, I can sit down with my computer and pick a match and watch every point from beginning to end. How cool is that?