ITV on Verge of Securing French Open Rights Deal

September 20, 2011

UK commercial broadcaster ITV has been revealed to be in the advanced stages of negotiations for the rights to tennis’s French Open with the MP & Silva agency, patient which is selling the pan-European media rights for the tournament.

Neither the broadcaster nor the agency would comment on the talks but some UK media sources say that a deal could be signed this week or next week.

A move by ITV into tennis would be something of a surprise. In recent years the broadcaster has targeted its resources at guaranteed ratings drivers such as top football and Formula One motor racing. However, tennis draws in an attractive demographic for advertisers and with Scottish player Andy Murray ranked number four in the world, the broadcaster can expect decent audiences.

European Broadcasting Union previously held the European rights to the Grand Slam event, but in June MP & Silva outbid the consortium of European free-to-air broadcasters and other agencies to acquire the rights for five years, 2012 to 2016.

The agency’s strong commitment to free-to-air coverage was crucial in winning over a rights-holder, the Fédération Française de Tennis, that traditionally placed great importance on exposure for the event and its sponsors in Europe.

Michel Grach, director of media and sponsorship at the federation, told TV Sports Markets at the time, said: “MP & Silva’s offer was the best both financially and in terms of the guarantees of free-to-air coverage,” “But this deal also enables us to open up our product to the entire European market. This includes both free-to-air and pay-television broadcasters and broadcasters both inside and outside the European Broadcasting Union.”

ITV is a member of the EBU.