At 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning just outside San Francisco, a property owner closely studies his 65-inch television, pouring over slow-motion images of Roger Federer’s forehand from a Tennis Channel broadcast that he taped Friday morning. Eight hours later, he’ll attempt to mimic Federer’s swing shape.
That same weekend day, off the West Coast of Florida, a marketing executive is reading the latest news about the Williams sisters on his iPad. In his tape library is a DVD of their recent Australian Open final.
In Texas, a pediatrician is planning her next tennis trip. Indian Wells? Roland Garros? Australia? Shanghai?
Across the pond, in London, an entrepreneur explores several websites to learn about the latest racquets. And what exactly is the deal with these new strings?
Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, a passionate archivist is rereading the letters of a former Wimbledon champion while watching a Tennis Channel documentary about the barnstorming pros of the pre-Open era.
An hour north of New York City, an attorney sets up his iPhone to record his service motion and see how close it matches the frame-by-frame analysis he cut out of Tennis Magazine. Later that day, mimicking a “One-Minute Clinic” he saw on Tennis Channel, he’ll throw a football just prior to playing a league match – which hopefully will end before he can watch the ATP World Tour final that’s airing this evening.
Welcome to the world of the tennis zealot.
Take a global sport. Add a year-round schedule. Then, best of all, multiply it by one of tennis’ greatest selling points: an individual sport you can play your entire life.
All these factors create a tremendous hunger. The millions who engage in tennis are omnivores, constantly on the hunt for information.
All of this bodes well in the wake of yesterday’s news announcement: Sinclair Broadcast Group, which purchased Tennis Channel last year, has acquired Tennis Media Company – owner of Tennis.com and Tennis Magazine. Tennis.com generates 25 million monthly page views and two million unique monthly visitors. Tennis Magazine, published eight times a year, has a circulation of 600,000 and is also in partnership with the USTA. (Disclosure: I am a contributing editor to Tennis Magazine, having first written for the magazine in 1994.)
Tennis Magazine has been a force in the sport for more than 50 years. The magazine’s start in 1965 was prescient. A 1970 study conducted by A.C. Nielsen Company – the same company that measures television ratings – revealed that approximately 10 million Americans played tennis “from time to time.” Six years later, that figure had nearly tripled. Tennis Magazine rode that wave smoothly, most of all by reading the tea leaves of the tennis boom: The new people coming to the sport were not merely spectators. They were participant, keen to embrace tennis not just as an occasional pastime, but as an active lifestyle.
This same spirit of participation and engagement has always been at the heart of Tennis Channel’s mission -- from tournament coverage to instruction, history to equipment, pop culture to psychology, news to nutrition, forehands to fitness.
And now comes a merging of prominent media properties. Unquestionably, there are certain differences in how each medium weaves its way through the tennis tapestry. But for millions of tennis aficionados, always hungry, the message is clear: Bring your racquets, your cameras, your bags and your balls -- and step up to the biggest media buffet in tennis history.