ITV Sport will continue to screen exclusive free-to-air coverage of the French Open until 2018 after securing a new four-year deal.
The channel, which has held the rights to broadcast the tournament since 2012, will continue covering of the second tennis Grand Slam of the calendar year from Roland Garros under a new deal with the French Tennis Federation (FFT) for UK terrestrial TV rights, which runs from 2015 to 2018.
ITV will continue to provide extensive terrestrial output from the French Open each year with a guaranteed minimum of 90 hours coverage across ITV and ITV4 during the 15-day tournament, plus live streaming and catch-up content via ITV Player.
Both the men’s and women’s singles final will continue to be shown on ITV over the concluding weekend, with the bulk of the live action remaining on ITV4, including the best matches from the main show courts and those featuring British players.
In a surprise move back in autumn 2011, ITV secured a three-year deal to cover the French Open from 2012 to 2014, a deal which brought the BBC’s long association with the tournament to an end.
According to Broadcast, the corporation is understood to have attempted to win the rights back to sit alongside its coverage of Wimbledon, Queen’s and the Davis Cup, but ITV’s bid was reportedly too strong.
Niall Sloane, ITV’s Director of Sport said: “We’re delighted to able to continue our association with this fantastic Grand Slam tournament and to bring, free to air to viewers, full coverage of a fortnight of elite level tennis from Paris for the next four years.”
News of a new French Open deal will be a welcome boost to ITV Sport following a selection of high-profile losses, including FA Cup rights to the BBC from 2014/15 and live Champions League/Europa League rights to BT Sport from 2015 onwards.
ITV4’s sporting portfolio also took a hit with the loss of Indian Premier League cricket rights to Sky Sports from next year, but the channel will still be the home to French Open tennis, as well as other events such as Tour de France cycling, British Touring Cars, PDC darts and World Snooker tournaments.
The channel’s French Open coverage, anchored by John Inverdale since it took over the rights in 2012 from a special studio base at Roland Garros, has been well received by viewers and is regarded as an improvement on the BBC’s previous coverage, which was mostly consigned to the red button.
ITV’s commentary team for the 2014 tournament included Wimbledon Ladies Champion Marion Bartoli, four-time Grand Slam winner Jim Courier, Andy Murray’s former coach Mark Petchey, Fabrice Santoro, who played in a record 70 Grand Slams, former British ladies number one Sam Smith, and commentator Nick Mullins, while Celina Hinchcliffe is the court-side reporter.
Eurosport holds the pan-European rights to Roland Garros and will continue to screen the tournament on its UK and European channels until 2021, including the exclusive UK rights to screen live coverage across multiple courts via its TV channels and online.