Groundbreaking Partnership Unifies North American Hard-Court Summer Season By Linking 10 Men’s and Women’s Professional Tennis Events to the US Open
Landmark ESPN Agreement Provides the Sport with Consistent, Weekly Television Platform; CBS Sports and NBC to Provide Select Weekend Coverage The Tennis Channel to Air Select Early Rounds
Winner of the US Open Series to Play for Double Prize Money at the US Open in 2005; New Bonus System to Be Introduced This Summer
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., April 20, 2004 — The USTA has announced the launch of the US Open Series, an historic breakthrough for the sport that links 10 summer hard-court tournaments to the US Open, creating a cohesive, six-week summer tennis season for ATP and WTA Tour professional tournaments in North America. The US Open Series will mark the first time ever in the U.S. that there will be a consistent television schedule for the tournaments — and for the fans — beginning this July after Wimbledon and leading up to the US Open.
A landmark television agreement with ESPN provides a regular, weekly schedule of live broadcasts in prime-viewing time slots for US Open Series events. In addition, CBS Sports and NBC will televise select weekend coverage. The combined live, national coverage of 100 hours of US Open Series events and 140 hours of US Open broadcasts on CBS Sports and USA Network represent a record 240 hours of professional tennis coverage over eight weeks during the summer.
For the first time ever, players competing in the US Open Series tournaments will be vying for bonus prize money at the US Open. Effective in 2005, the men’s and women’s winner of the US Open Series will play for double the prize money at the US Open. For 2004, the two winners of the US Open Series will receive one and one-half times the prize money they would otherwise receive at the US Open. In addition, the second-place and third-place finishers will also receive bonus prize money based on their US Open performance.
The US Open Series represents an unprecedented collaboration between the USTA, tournament owners, television partners, the ATP and WTA Tour, and sponsors. Olympus and MassMutual have already signed on as charter sponsors of the US Open Series. The USTA and its partners will join together for an integrated national and local marketing, advertising, and promotional campaign which will include television, print, and online media to launch the US Open Series.
“This unprecedented partnership within the sport has resulted in a huge step forward for professional tennis in North America,” said Arlen Kantarian, Chief Executive, Professional Tennis, USTA. “The US Open Series creates, for the first time, a clear and concise big-league summer season for tennis, leading into and culminating with the US Open. A unified Series with a consistent television platform benefits everyone -- players, tournaments, broadcasters, sponsors, and, most importantly, fans. It’s a testament to the sport's shared desire to increase fan and media attention."
"This breakthrough concept is designed to elevate the profile of professional tennis in the U.S.,” said Alan Schwartz, Chairman of the Board and President, USTA. “The US Open Series plays a critical role in the USTA’s mission to promote and develop the growth of tennis and will help increase viewership and participation.”
“The WTA Tour is excited to be a partner in the US Open Series, which we believe will be of great benefit to our tournaments, players and other key shareholders,” said Larry Scott, CEO, WTA Tour. “The US Open Series is a wonderful example of our sport’s governing bodies working together to grow the exposure and popularity of the game, and it promises to offer a more consistent and easy-to-follow summer package for fans, sponsors and the media.”
“It is the tennis fan who will likely benefit the most through greater exposure on television for tennis, for ATP players and for ATP tournaments with the US Open Series,” said Mark Miles, CEO, ATP.
The US Open Series television package transforms a disparate schedule of men’s and women’s events into live, regularly scheduled television broadcasts that link to and culminate with the start of the US Open. The 100 hours of US Open Series coverage will include live coverage from each tournament, including both a men’s and women’s final every Sunday afternoon throughout the summer.
The new US Open Series broadcast agreement expands ESPN’s programming commitment to tennis and follows CBS Sports’ extension of its partnership with the USTA late last year to broadcast the US Open through 2008. The Tennis Channel is scheduled to broadcast select early rounds and is in discussions with the USTA regarding additional coverage.
“The US Open Series is a revolutionary breakthrough for tennis,” said Mark Shapiro, Executive Vice President of Programming and Production, ESPN. “ESPN’s dedication of resources and programming windows for the US Open Series reinforces our commitment to the launch of one of the strongest summer sports packages.”
“As a 35-year partner of the US Open, we see the US Open Series as an extremely creative and effective approach to growing the sport of tennis,” said Sean McManus, President, CBS Sports. “As with all successful sports properties, a consistent and cohesive TV schedule is the critical platform for showcasing stars and growing the sport.”
The US Open Series will begin on July 12, with the top men playing in the Mercedes-Benz Cup in Los Angeles and the top women at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California. The US Open Series continues over the course of the ensuing six weeks — in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Toronto, Cincinnati, Montreal, Washington, D.C., New Haven, and Long Island — leading directly into the US Open.
Click here to view the 2004 US Open Series schedule with weekend broadcaster information.
Olympus, the official camera of the US Open, has signed on as a charter US Open Series sponsor. In addition, MassMutual has committed to become a sponsor of the US Open Series effective in 2005. The USTA is currently in discussions with a select group of companies to become the exclusive presenting sponsor of the overall US Open Series.
The USTA and its partners will develop and implement an integrated national and local marketing, advertising, and promotional campaign to support the US Open Series, including the launch of USOpenSeries.com, a comprehensive website providing tournament information and live links to all ten event sites. The national marketing campaign will capitalize on the popularity and appeal of the US Open brand and is expected to break in June, in newspapers and national magazines and on television. The multimedia effort will include on-air and online promotional support from ESPN and CBS Sports, national print advertising, cross-ticketing and fan promotions, and direct marketing to the more than 675,000 USTA members. In addition, tournaments will execute local advertising that reflects the unique character of each event.