The Tennis Channel is embracing pickleball.
Main League Pickleball introduced Thursday the cable channel will broadcast the league’s premier degree event semifinals and finals in Mesa, Arizona, and can make all matches of the event accessible for streaming. The partnership marks a deepening of the connection between skilled pickleball and the TV community.
Pickleball has soared in reputation, with greater than 36 million Individuals taking part in the game final yr. Now the Tennis Channel is poised to capitalize on that surge.
“We have gone from one pickleball occasion in 2021, we had a reasonably full yr of protection in 2022 and that’s going to escalate considerably in 2023,” Ken Solomon, CEO of the Tennis Channel, instructed CNBC. “We’ve massive plans.”
Solomon mentioned the community is uniquely positioned to broadcast pickleball after its 20 years of broadcasting tennis.
“We’ve all of the infrastructure in place and all of the human capital and the individuals who create the narrative to the engineers,” he mentioned.
Solomon mentioned the community can transition to pickleball “actually with a flip of a swap.” And, he mentioned, the game is “sizzling as hell.”
The longtime Tennis Channel government mentioned pickleball has already seen a really pure overlap with present tennis sponsors. He would not fear about pickleball cannibalizing the game that is been his bread and butter.
Brian Levine, Main League Pickleball’s interim CEO, agrees the 2 sports activities might be mutually useful.
“I feel there’s this misperception that there is a competitors between tennis and pickleball,” Levine instructed CNBC. “I feel that it is truly a complement.”
The overwhelming majority of MLP professionals come from a tennis background. Many present and former tennis gamers have invested in skilled pickleball, together with Naomi Osaka, James Blake, Kim Clijsters, Sam Querrey, Nick Kyrgios and Lindsay Davenport.
For the Tennis Channel viewers, Levine thinks pickleball’s fast-paced motion will assist appeal to new followers of the game. He famous that in MLP skilled matches, the ball is in motion about 40% of the time, in contrast with skilled tennis matches at 16%.
The Tennis Channel, created in 2003 and owned by the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, struck its first take care of the Skilled Pickleball Affiliation in 2021 to broadcast varied occasions and tournaments.
The community has since broadcast a particular pickleball celeb exhibition in Dallas that includes sports activities legends like Tony Romo, Jordan Spieth and John Isner, in addition to MLP’s first-ever draft in Las Vegas, the place the league revealed crew lineups.
Solomon mentioned pickleball has already delivered robust rankings for his community.
“What we’ve got seen constantly, is actual consideration, actual appointment tv kind viewing for pickleball. It has rated very, very properly,” he mentioned.
The community has been making a push into streaming and making its product accessible internationally, with a subscription service referred to as Tennis Channel Worldwide launching in 2020. Including pickleball matches to its streaming choices means beefing up content material at a time when linear tv is stagnant, at finest.
MLP mentioned it has not finalized broadcast agreements past the Mesa, Arizona, event however is actively in discussions.
Solomon wouldn’t touch upon his community’s future plans with MLP however mentioned, “We firmly consider that having devoted locations is a advantage. We have confirmed it.”
Additionally on Thursday, the professional pickleball circuit introduced the ultimate two groups of the league and their respective possession teams for the 2023 season, which kicks off Jan. 26: The St. Louis Shock will likely be led by businessman Richard Chaifetz, together with his son, Ross Chaifetz, main crew operations; and the Orlando Squeeze in Florida will likely be led by Ryan DeVos, who has greater than 30 years of possession expertise with the NBA’s Orlando Magic.
NFL free agent Odell Beckham Jr. will be part of the possession group of the Washington, D.C., crew, the league mentioned.