ITV snags French Open from BBC

A day after the BBC inked a deal to keep Wimbledon free-to-air rights through 2017 the network to a hit as it lost rights to the French Open tennis championship to ITV. The ITV deal covers three years and begins next May with the 2012 championship.

ITV1 will show the men’s and women’s finals from the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, along with live coverage of two other matches during the two-week tournament. Digital channel ITV4 and will deliver about six hours’ coverage of each day’s play along with highlights.

It is unclear what will happen with the UK pay-TV rights as a new deal is pending. Eurosport previously held those rights.

The ITV controller of sport, Niall Sloane, said: “It’s the first time that a grand slam has been shown live on ITV and with around six hours of coverage over each day of the tournament we’ll be offering viewers more free-to-air coverage of the tournament than ever before.”

BBC has also lost live TV rights to the Paralympics and IAAF World Athletics Championships (both to Channel 4) and the US Masters golf tournament (to Sky). The network also agreed to share live TV coverage of Formula One motor racing with BSkyB as the BBC will only show half of the races live. In radio, the number of live Premier League games broadcast live by BBC Radio 5 Live was reduced by a third from August, with TalkSport and Absolute Radio picking up the rights. And the BBC also bowed out of live coverage of the recent Rugby World Cup for the first time since the tournament began in 1987.

According to The Guardian, MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee will question director general Mark Thompson and the BBC Trust chairman, Lord Patten, about the deal when they appear before MPs to discuss the corporation’s governance in December.

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