In this day of escalating sports-rights fees, the French Open finds itself a bete noire vis-a-vis cable networks. USA, which had the rights at an estimated $3.5 million a year, balked at paying anywhere near that to renew the (not so) Grand Slam. So without a cable outlet as the May/June event approaches, the French just hired IMG's TWI group to get a deal. USA and TNT are said to have put figures forward far below the $3.5 million; ESPN has also shown passive interest. NBC has re-upped as the broadcast carrier.
The Sundance Channel is exploring offering sponsorship windows on its documentary-only channel that could launch later this year. The move would mark a change for the operators of the premium channel-Viacom, Robert Redford and Vivendi Universal-which run the flagship commercial-free and vow that it will always be that way. A spokeswoman said the sponsors would be able to run messages between films.
The Lifetime network looks to launch in 2003 Lifetime Magazine, a natural step since Hearst owns 50% of the net. Disney owns the other half. The nature of the would-be magazine's content is unclear. A Lifetime spokeswoman declined to comment; a Hearst spokeswoman said no announcement is planned.