As Expected, CBS And Your Cable Company Wrecked The U.S. Open*

No way was CBS going to pre-empt its Saturday evening line-up to show tennis–tennis!–so it cut away from the Andy Roddick – John Isner match as scheduled last night at 6pm.

So everyone turned to ESPN 2, which has been showing the matches all week.

No joy.

ESPN 2 didn’t have the US Open TV rights last night.  The Tennis Channel did.  (As if this should be your problem to figure out).

But The Tennis Channel is a pay channel.  And thanks to some infuriating greed-dispute, it’s not available in Cablevision households.  Which meant that, as the Roddick-Isner match progressed toward a thrilling primetime conclusion, it was basically off the air for most tennis fans.

Thankfully, the future of TV has arrived.  The US Open has maintained the rights to show a live feed of most matches direct from the U.S. site.  So tennis fans could just flip open their laptops, circumvent the byzantine rights system that often prevents them from watching the most exciting moments of major tournaments (or shows them on tape delay, when the results are already known), and watch the end of the Roddick-Isner match with no help from their cable company, the Tennis Channel, ESPN, or CBS.

When will the day come that TV viewers can finally forget about the idiotic “channel” and “network” and local-monopoly system and just watch what they want to watch when they want to watch it?  Unfortunately, with the TV industry doing everything it can to protect the lucrative status quo, the transition to full Internet-based delivery will still likely be years. 

But we’re catching glimpses of that inevitable future.  And it’s a glorious one.

* UPDATE: Jim Maiella of Cablevision responds, saying it’s all the Tennis Channel’s fault:

[I]f anyone “wrecked” anything here, it was the leadership of the Tennis Channel, who decided to ignore a valid contract that would have made their U.S. Open coverage available to any Cablevision customer who wanted it, and instead continued to cling to a thin technicality (that they have never invoked before) to delay the addition of the Tennis Channel to our sports tier until Sept. 25, at which point they are contractually bound to deliver it.  This was their decision, and one that was made at the expense of New York-area tennis fans.

Here is our comment:

“We have a binding agreement to carry the Tennis Channel in the same way it is carried by other cable companies, including Time Warner Cable in New York.  We have had a channel open and ready since before the U.S. Open, but unfortunately the Tennis Channel has continued to withhold their programming, because they are angry about being held to the terms of a contract they willingly entered into.  We think it was a bad decision by the leadership of the Tennis Channel, a slap in the face to tennis fans, and they should be ashamed of themselves…”

We’ve had colour bars up on channels 399 (standard-definition) and 795 (HD) since August 28 waiting for the Tennis Channel to authorise our equipment to receive its signal, it has refused to do so, despite that fact that we have a valid contract to add the channel to our sports tier through our membership in the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) which has an umbrella agreement with the Tennis Channel going back several years that any NCTC member can opt into.

I’m attaching a release the NCTC issued last month reiterating the validity of our deal and the fact that the Tennis Channel has never before delayed authorization, and also one we put out urging the Tennis Channel to do the right thing, and even offering to give the sports tier to any customer who wanted it for free for a month so customers could watch the Open without paying extra.  All was ignored by Tennis Channel leadership.  Luckily for our customers there are more than 130 hours of live U.S. Open coverage available on CBS and ESPN, in both standard-definition and HD, and of course the online option you have alerted viewers to, which is terrific.

See Also: Hey, Check Out The Future Of Television!

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