ESPN wins exclusive U.S. Open tennis rights in 11-year deal
(Reuters) - Walt Disney's ESPN sports juggernaut said it signed an 11-year contract to exclusively show all rounds of the U.S. Open tennis tournament on its channels in North and South America, giving it coverage of the sport's four major tournaments.
The new rights for full U.S. Open coverage take effect starting in 2015, the network said in a statement on Thursday.
ESPN already airs all rounds of Wimbledon, including the finals, and much of the Australian Open, including its championship rounds, according to an ESPN spokesman.
The ESPN cable channel carries some rounds of the French Open, although Comcast Corp's NBC carries the finals.
In a separate statement, Canada's BCE Inc said its English- and French-language sports channels would have exclusive Canadian rights to the tournament, also for 11 years.
The U.S. Open tournament finals, and weekend play, has been carried by CBS since 1968. ESPN began televising 100 hours of early-round and second-week matches in 2009.
Under the new ESPN agreement, with the United States Tennis Association, the New York-based U.S. Open will arrange its matches to mesh with ESPN's schedule. Women's semifinal matches will be played during prime time on Thursday and the men's semifinals on Friday night, according to ESPN.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
The new schedule also puts the women's final match on Saturday and the men's on Sunday.
(Reporting By Ronald Grover, additional reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Steve Orlofsky; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
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