16 May 2016

Tennis TV and Tennis Channel Plus - a tennis nerd perspective

When The Tennis Channel made its debut back in 2003, I was living in South Korea so I was not able to enjoy the early days. It wasn't until 2009 that I got a chance to see TC for the first time so when I moved back to the US in 2012 I was SO excited to finally get proper live tennis on TV and have multiple non-illegal streaming options. 

After years of watching dodgy illegal streams, I made the decision a few years ago to stop using them. Most of my decision was due to security concerns on my laptop and also irritation at the endless popup ads (and yes I've tried ad blockers to no avail) and overall poor quality of the streams. To me, a huge tennis nerd, having access to consistently reliable matches online is a must.

In early 2013 I subscribed to Tennis TV for the first time and I've been hooked every since. I have used ESPN3 intermittently (usually during slams) and in 2015 I subscribed to Tennis Channel + for a month so I had better access for French Open matches.

I've been meaning to post a blog about the tennis streaming services especially because in December 2015 I signed up for an annual Tennis Channel Plus subscription. Discussions of Tennis TV and TC+ are regular topics on my Twitter timeline and I often get into conversations about their merits.

Before I offer my views about both streaming services, here are some facts.

About me:
  • I do not own a TV. 
  • I can access Tennis Channel online due to my parents' TV subscription (but rarely do outside slams)
  • I have existing Tennis TV and Tennis Channel Plus subscriptions.
  • I can't stand ESPN coverage of tennis. I don't need the desk commentary and constant cutting in and out of matches plus you have to put up with commercial breaks. Also, I don't like the ESPN viewer - it's too small unless you maximize it on your computer and I don't like to do that. 
Things I care about:
  • Stream quality
  • Time delay of stream
  • # of available tournaments
Watching on Tennis Channel is great, but they can only show one match at a time and they rarely do a split screen (which I personally find annoying anyway). So naturally, many fans get peeved when the matches they want to see are not shown. It's a bit of a no-win situation since fans have different expectations, favorite players and preferences.

I know that many existing Tennis Channel subscribers are MAD that they don't automatically get a subscription to Tennis Channel + with their cable subscriptions. I get both sides of this argument, but since I am not a cable subscriber I don't mind paying for TC+ to supplement my tennis watching.

Tennis TV:
Per website: "TennisTV shows around 2,700 matches every year from around 100 tournaments."

What's good:
  • Live streams that start well before players come on court. You see the warm ups and all changeovers, MTOs, etc
  • NO commercial breaks
  • No desk reporting like ESPN and Tennis Channel so you actually get tennis, not extra interviews and commentary instead of live tennis
  • They usually show trophy ceremonies and on-court interviews
  • Can watch 1-4 matches at once from multiple tournaments even
  • Generally streams are in live time without any delays
  • Watch live matches on the go on the Tennis TV app (I can't think of many issues I've had using it)
  • Highlights available on the website in a pretty timely manner
  • Interviews available online in a timely manner
  • On Demand matches for seven days, finals for longer
  • Commentary is usually pretty solid (less annoying to me than most of the TC and ESPN commentary)
  • Great customer service - Tennis TV usually shows trophy ceremonies, and once they didn't include it on video replay and they ADDED it when I tweeted them about it.
What's not so good:
  • No slam coverage or Fed Cup/Davis Cup. This is strictly a WTA/ATP product.
  • Sometimes quality of the stream can be iffy.
  • Every once in awhile they have technical issues but usually not for extended lengths of time.
  • No app available for Smart TVs (but that's coming in 2017)
  • Some tourney are geoblocked but in the US it's mostly smaller ATP events which I'm okay with. Info: http://help.tennistv.com/list-of-geo-restrictions/
What's coming:
In 2017, Tennis TV has some cool changes coming per their website:
  • We will make TennisTV available on more streaming devices in January including Apple TV, Roku devices, Amazon Fire devices and Chromecast with gaming consoles and Connected TVs to follow.
  • We plan to stream more live tennis matches from the ATP World Tour and WTA and make all of these matches available as full replays throughout the entire season. On all devices. So, there will be no more 7 day window for full replays, you will be able to watch all year around.
  • You will also have the ability to create your own playlists of your favourite matches, whether from full replays, match highlights or the classic match archive.
  • The new TennisTV will also combine higher quality HD live and on-demand streams, integrated statistics & data and multi-court coverage to show up to eight courts of live tennis.
Cost: $129 per year ($10.80 per month) or $19.99/for a monthly pass or $9.99 for a day pass
Specials: In 2015 they offered 16 months for the price of 12.
Info: https://help.tennistv.com



Tennis Channel Plus
Per the Tennis Channel website: "650 live professional tennis matches including up to 5 simultaneous live court play for the first 8 days from the French Open as well as 1 court from the Australian Open for the first 8 days  as well as live matches from the ATP, WTA, Davis, Fed and Hopman Cups throughout the year. In addition, Tennis Channel Plus subscribers get On-demand access to 1000s of hours of tennis matches and original programming."

What's good:
  • During slams you can have your pick from multiple courts (not at the same time tho) instead of whatever ESPN is showing.
  • They show Fed Cup and Davis Cup (and ties which may not be shown on Tennis Channel).
  • Access matches on their Tennis Channel Everywhere app (I haven't done this too often but haven't had any issues with it)
  • No commercials -  (I think?) if you watch Tennis Channel online there are ads, but I don't believe there are if you watch on TC Plus)
  • Stream quality is higher
  • View On Demand matches (not all, but some)
  • You do not have to subscribe to Tennis Channel to get Tennis Channel Plus.
What's not so good:
  • My stream is always about 30 seconds behind real time
  • Can only watch one match at a time (versus 4 at time if you watch on Tennis TV)
  • Not available outside the US. 
  • Comcast customers have issues (Still trying to understand what they are. Seems they can't access Tennis Channel Everywhere online to use TC+ but can view on devices?)
  • Justin Gimelstob
Cost: $89.99 per year ($7.50 per month). They used to do a monthly or daily pass option but I've been told those are no longer available. Used to be $10 for a monthly pass or $5 for a day pass. (waiting for verification from Tennis Channel).
Specials: Tennis Channel + regularly offers subscription specials. I saved 20% off my subscription due to my USTA membership and I've seen many % discounts offered through Twitter.
Info: http://tennischannel.com/faq/#plus

So now what? I realize we're all different but for a tennis-obsessed person like I am, subscribing to both Tennis TV and Tennis Channel Plus is needed. I don't think either are expensive for what you get and I love being able to watch matches later in the day and like having multiple options if I don't like a commentator or if I'm having quality issues.

What have I missed? What else would you like to know about Tennis TV and/or Tennis Channel Plus?