Tennis Channel has been a network that has struggled to find an audience. A lot of that has to do with distribution. Because it’s a niche network, Tennis Channel has been placed on lowly-viewed sports tiers or in some cases, not picked up at all. According to the Wall Street Journal, Tennis Channel is in 35 million homes, trailing the major cable sports networks.
The network which airs three of the four tennis Grand Slam tournaments and various ATP and WTA events may be up for sale. The WSJ article notes that Sinclair Broadcast Group has been in talks with Tennis Channel’s majority owners to possibly purchase the network. The purchase price is reportedly more than $500 million.
Sinclair owns 164 television stations in 79 markets across the country. Its stations are affiliated with all of the major TV networks. It operates American Sports Network which syndicates college football and college basketball games to local stations and some regional sports networks.
Sinclair is almost at the cap for buying local television stations, but buying a cable sports network would be a way for the company to bring more content to viewers.
Tennis Channel was recently hurt by the failure to reach an agreement with ESPN to air the U.S. Open Series and live U.S. Open matches, something it had done in the past.
Sinclair hopes it can bring Tennis Channel to more viewers by making agreements with cable providers. Both Dish and DirecTV carry the network and have minority ownership stakes.
These talks are in the preliminary stages, but the fact that two sides are in negotiations tells us that they’re serious. Tennis Channel needs viewership and Sinclair needs content. This should tell you that this could be a good marriage, but the finances have to match. We’ll see if this can go forward or if Sinclair will eventually leave the table.
Both sides aren’t saying anything publicly.