September 2014 will mark the end of an era as CBS, the network that has broadcast the championship matches of the US Open as far back as anyone can remember, will not renew its contract with the United States Tennis Association when it expires next year, the Queens Chronicle has exclusively learned.
CBS Sports Group chairman Sean McManus confirmed to the Queens Chronicle at a reception following its annual presentation of new fall programs to advertisers, better known in the television industry as the Upfront, that the Tiffany Network will be out of the tennis broadcasting business at the conclusion of the 2014 US Open.
Currently television coverage of the US Open is divided between three networks: ESPN, the Tennis Channel, and of course, CBS. ESPN covers the matches at Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong stadiums during the week, while the Tennis Channel covers the matches at the side courts of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The buzz coming from television sports executives is that ESPN will pick up all the time slots that have belonged to CBS going back to the days when the Open was played at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills.
ESPN executives did not mention the US Open during their Upfront presentation on Tuesday but its CEO, John Skipper, proudly mentioned how his network will be covering every point at Wimbledon this coming June. Skipper has made no secret of the fact that he sees professional tennis’s Grand Slam events — the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open — as crown jewel events that attract upscale advertisers. ESPN has broadcasting rights to all of the aforementioned. An ESPN press representative would neither confirm nor deny that it obtained the rights to broadcast the championship matches beginning in 2015.
It is unusual for CBS to not competitively bid on any major sporting event but it is easy to surmise why the network is walking away now.
The men’s championship match, scheduled for late Sunday afternoon at the end of the second week of the Open, has been pushed to the next day because of weather numerous times. Last year CBS allowed ESPN to broadcast the men’s championship, which was won by Andy Murray, who defeated Novak Djokovic.
There is little doubt that the decline of American dominance in men’s tennis — which will soon be matched on the women’s side as the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, age — also played a role in CBS’s decision.
Finally, CBS no longer will have to beg the National Football League to arrange its schedule so that all the games that it has broadcast rights for take place in the 1 p.m. slot the second Sunday in September.
A CBS executive noted that the revenues derived from the US Open pale in comparison to those stemming from the Tiffany Network’s carriage agreements with the NFL, the PGA Tour and college football and basketball (particularly the NCAA Men’s Tournament, known more commonly as March Madness) but admitted that the decision to sever ties with the US Open wasn’t easy because it is part of his network’s legacy.