Behind The Scenes

ESPN at French Open: Croissants and crosscourt volleys, now served live

There’s one big change in ESPN2’s presentation of the French Open, which starts today and goes through the women’s semifinals June 7. It will alter how everyone on site in France does everything they do — and might lead to a substantial rise in caffeine consumption on these shores.

The Open is live.

In recent years, ESPN’s action from Paris (six hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone) generally started at noon, while the sun was setting and the shadows were lengthening across the famed red clay of Roland Garros.

That plan provided for some live matches, then “back-filling” the broadcast window with the best of that day’s play.

“We were upside down,” explains Jamie Reynolds, vice president, event production, and a veteran of ESPN’s French Open efforts back to the mid-80s.

“We put matches on tape, then went live with what we could before returning to tape.

“Now we’re in the business of live tennis,” he says of the new schedule with a start time of 5 a.m. ET most days.

“With the success of WatchESPN and fans knowing scores and news in real time, it is the right time for ESPN2 to be ‘live-live’ along with ESPN3. That’s how we present the other three stops on our Grand Slam world tour and it’s what fans want and deserve.

“It will be great to show matches which people don’t know the result,” he adds. “It also will help build the avid fan’s mindset as we approach Wimbledon that we are the destination for live tennis.”

In addition, Reynolds believes his team will benefit from the new schedule when ESPN’s new and unprecedented exclusive coverage of Wimbledon begins on June 25.

“We will get into a rhythm — let our people get their reps, so to speak — and serve breakfast in Paris, which will dovetail nicely as preparation for our expanded role at Wimbledon.”

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