Warner Bros. Discovery Snares U.S. Rights to French Open (EXCLUSIVE)

The Warner Bros. Discovery sports portfolio has long been grounded in offerings from the major U.S. leagues. Now the company is adding international flavor to its mix.

Warner has acquired the U.S. rights to the French Open, the tennis tournament also known as Roland-Garros, according to people familiar with the matter, snatching up a property that has primarily been associated with NBC Sports for many years. In Europe, however, where Warner Bros. Discovery operates the massive Eurosport pay-TV networks, the Open has been part of its offerings since 1989. Warner’s new French Open deal will commence in 2025.

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The new deal will give Warner rights to telecast the event in both the U.S. and Europe, according to these people, and brings a new offering to the company’s U.S. portfolio, which features games from the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, as well as a significant part of the annual March Madness men’s college-basketball tournament. Warner Bros. Discovery intends to make content tied to the Open available across its linear cable networks, its Max streaming service, and its Bleacher Report digital sports hub, according to people familiar with the deal. Warner Bros. Discovery is a co-owner of the new Venu streaming sports joint-venture operated with Fox and Disney, and expected to debut in the fall.

Warner Bros. Discovery declined to make executives available for comment. Financial details of the transaction, which is slated to cover a multiple-year run, could not be immediately learned.

Details of the pact surface as Warner Bros. Discovery is trying to determine if it can keep some portion of the NBA games that fuel so much of the economics of its TV properties. The NBA’s current rights deal, held primarily among Warner and Disney, expires after the 2024-2025 season, and the league has set up preliminary carriage deals with Disney, Amazon and NBCUniversal, according to people familiar with those plans.

Warner has vowed to grow its sports presence. It has in recent weeks struck a deal to sub-license some CFP games from Disney’s ESPN and built up its ties to the NHL. The company has also tried to expand a series of celebrity-golf tournaments known as “The Match” that have popular golfers and football players taking part, among others.

But many investors’ eyes have been on Warner since it was formed from the merger of the former Discovery Inc. and WarnerMedia. Discovery, best known for the unscripted fare it shows on Food Network and Discovery Channel, also owned Eurosport, while Warner had the U.S. sports portfolio. The thought has long been that the company would be able to develop global alliances with various leagues and teams. Eurosport has rights to broadcast the Olympics in Europe.

More to come…

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