Tennis Channel’s T2 to Launch on Samsung TV Plus, Debuts This Week with BNP Paribas Open
Through a pact with Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Tennis Channel, Samsung is set to launch a new free streaming channel in the U.S. T2 will feature a free, ad-supported 24/7 live stream of secondary matches from major tennis tournaments that might otherwise never be televised. The channel launches exclusively in the U.S. and will only be available on the Samsung TV Plus platform for the first year.
T2 is set to debut this week with the BNP Parabis Open, which runs March 10-20 in Indian Wells near Palm Springs, Cali. Coverage from the 11 days of competition will be presented on the linear Tennis Channel, T2 on Samsung TV Plus, as well as on the subscription-based Tennis Channel app. The upcoming Miami Open will also stream on the same linear channel, FAST channel, and app from March 21-April 2.
“As we see cord-cutting taking ahold of the entire industry, we believe Samsung becomes the next version of television. The next phase for us is this FAST evolution. This is distinctly broadcast (airing live) but it’s also over-the-top and can have dynamic advertising. This is a good way to deliver users the content they want,” Takashi Nakano, the Los Angeles-based senior director of business development and content acquisition for Samsung TV Plus, told Variety.
T2 is carried by Samsung TV Plus on an ad-revenue share basis and will be accessible to users on TVs, starting with Samsung’s 2017 models. Industry sources estimated that Samsung TV Plus reaches between 25 and 30 million homes in the U.S., plus millions more in top markets such as India, the U.K., and Germany. To date, Samsung hasn’t paid any licensing fees to content providers.
The deal is a significant move for Sinclair to secure more profit out of Tennis Channel’s expenditures on tournament rights. There are multiple overlapping events during a major tournament, meaning that the linear Tennis Channel can only feature a fraction of the on-court action from any event. Because of this, the sports cabler has offered coverage on its on-demand streaming app, which first launched in 2007. It was then relaunched in 2014 as Tennis Channel Plus.
“We can strip out at any given moment one match of the 10, 20, or 30 going on simultaneously and put it on this platform,” Tennis Channel chief Ken Solomon said. “We can make this an always-live linear channel without disturbing anything we were already doing in linear and streaming.”
Launching T2 as a FAST channel makes sense for all involved. As traditional cablers and linear MVPDs experience subscriber declines, Tennis Channel’s cable base stands at 61 million homes. There’s no question that the top matches will remain on Tennis Channel, however, T2 will be crucial to growing its numbers.
“There’s still a huge portion of the population that just isn’t in the world of subscription,” Solomon added. “The viewer that watches good old-fashioned broadcast TV isn’t getting the exposure to tennis on a regular basis to be brought into the game.”
As Samsung ramps up its content distribution ambitions, it embraces the rise of FAST channels as a substitute to traditional linear television. Statista data reveals that Samsung dominates the U.S. market, claiming 33% market share of smart TVs sold in the U.S. between 2017 and 2020. Now that Samsung leaders are open to the opportunity to turn into a content distribution platform, the company has the potential to become a digital MVPD.
Both Samsung TV Plus and the Tennis Channel hope that T2 not only appeals to hard-core tennis fans but also piques the interest of channel surfers as well. Sports will also be “part of the vernacular,” Nakano said. “I think [T2] will be the start of something much bigger.”