Sinclair CEO: Tennis Channel Linear Channel Will Be Available Direct-To-Consumer Late 2023/Early 2024
As part of its quarterly earnings report on Wednesday, Sinclair Broadcast Group executives answered questions from analysts and while they did not report any subscriber totals for the recently soft-launched Bally Sports+, they did discuss the company’s next direct-to-consumer (DTC) sports streaming service.
In answering a question, Sinclair president and CEO Chris Ripley said that the company is moving forward with bringing the linear programming from its popular cable network the Tennis Channel to streaming at the end of next year or in early 2024. Sinclair already offers Tennis Channel+, which provides additive tennis coverage to what is available on the cable channel, much like ESPN+ does with golf coverage on the ESPN family of networks.
“At some point in the not-too-distant future, we will have a direct-to-consumer strategy for here in the U.S. for the main product on Tennis Channel,” Ripley said. “We couldn’t be more excited about Tennis Channel in terms of its future.”
The Sinclair CEO said that tennis fans are already streaming the channel’s content through TV Everywhere credentials. He said that authenticated streaming of the Tennis Channel was up roughly 200% over the past year, indicating that there is a substantive and increasing appetite for a streaming option for the sport and the channel. He also reported that Tennis Channel+ has reached new subscriber highs this year as well.
One of the reasons that Sinclair is likely moving towards launching its own DTC service is because it has been getting more and more difficult for streamers to find the channel on other services. In 2021, YouTube TV dropped the service over a carriage fee dispute. By presumably bringing the channel’s main content inside the same app as the supplemental offerings already on Tennis Channel+, fans will be able to stream some of the best tournaments around the world in one convenient app.
Additionally, Ripley noted that the channel is also expanding into other lifestyle sports, including pickleball, which is the fastest-growing sport in America. Ripley told analysts that the channel would be expanding coverage into these new sports in order to capitalize on the foundation that the channel has built when it comes to its state-of-the-art production capabilities.
Currently, Tennis Channel 2 is in the middle of a one-year exclusive agreement with Samsung TV, but after that window is over, it will launch on other streaming platforms domestically and internationally.
Ripley added that the company has plans to expand the Tennis Channel further into ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD), subscription video-on-demand (SVOD), and free ad-supported TV (FAST) channels.