Amazon buys into Roland Garros TV rights

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Paris (AFP)

Amazon has continued its push into the world of tennis by acquiring some of the rights to stream matches at Roland Garros from 2021, the French tennis federation (FFT) announced on Thursday.

The bulk of the rights for the period 2021-23 have been awarded to long-term state-owned broadcaster France Televisions but Amazon will be able to stream evening matches and those programmed for the newly-opened Simonne-Mathieu court.

The federation did not reveal the sum of money being paid for the rights but said revenue would increase by 25 percent.

The current retransmission agreement between France Televisions and pay channel Eurosport, which runs until 2020, currently brings in 24 million euros ($26.8million) per year, in stark contrast to two other Grand Slam tournaments, Wimbledon and the US Open, which generate nearly 70 million euros per year in TV rights.

The arrival of Amazon and its streaming platform is a first for a sporting event in France.

The American giant is already active in the UK where it has the rights to show the US Open and has agreements in place with the WTA.

At the French Open, Amazon will be able to the stream the first night sessions on the central Philippe Chatrier court, which will have a retractable roof from 2020.

Amazon will also have exclusive rights to show all matches on the new Simonne-Mathieu court.

The FFT's initial call for bids failed to hit their reserve price which prompted some late negotiations, a process that "shocked" France Television president Delphine Ernotte.

"It is a very cavalier way of treating a partner of 30 years," she told Le Monde.

On Thursday, however, Ernotte said: "I am very happy to see this wonderful event which is Roland Garros stay within the crown of the public service."