ESPN is close to making a move that would make tennis' Grand Slams almost entirely cable exclusive, according to a report from SportsBusiness Daily.
ESPN and the USTA have agreed to a deal in which ESPN would pay $60 million a year for the U.S. Open, which is up from the $20 million apiece per year that CBS and ESPN currently pay. The Worldwide Leader would get exclusive rights to the tournament, starting with the 2015 U.S. Open. CBS is reportedly interested in keeping some piece of the action, but it appears ESPN is trying to gain rights to the entire two-week show.
The network wants to give the viewer a similar experience to what they do with Wimbledon every year, in which the entire championship is now on cable. While ESPN would run into some conflicts with college football, the network would carry every match via some outlet, including their WatchESPN app or ESPN3.
The deal means that all but one of the four Grand Slams would be exclusively on cable. Only the French Open (NBC) and U.S. Open (CBS) still have broadcast homes, with Wimbledon and the Australian Open only available on ESPN. It also continues to eliminate the potential for affiliates preempting the men's championship match in years when it's forced to move to Mondays. The USTA has said, however, that the men's final will move back to Sunday in 2015, when this deal would begin.