When Serena Williams steps on Stadium Court at the Family Circle Cup this week, her image will be beamed in high-definition television to 143 countries and a potential audience of almost 25 million people.
But it’s not just the world’s No. 1 player — who won her 47th career singles title on the WTA Tour on Saturday in Miami — who will get the TV star treatment this week on Daniel Island.
The FCC on TV will go global this week, as an unprecedented total of 52 matches and more than 100 hours of coverage are slated to be available on international TV and via online streaming from Daniel Island.
Those numbers include 33 Stadium Court matches totaling some 70 hours on international TV, and 19 matches from the Althea Gibson Court that will be live-streamed online.
It’s a 300 percent increase over the nine matches and 14 hours of tennis carried on TV last year.
“It’s a big deal for us,” said Bob Moran, general manager of the Family Circle Cup. “It means bringing Charleston and this event to an international audience, and that impacts our sponsors, Daniel Island, our city and our entire state.”
It takes a lot of work, too.
“We’ve got to have this place all wired up and ready to go from Day 1,” said Moran. “Normally, we don’t start TV coverage until Thursday, so we have some time to get ready and get it built out.
“And since we’re doing two courts instead of one, we have to build a lot more facilities and do a lot more wiring. It really starts our process a lot earlier.”
The process is part of a deal for international rights that the WTA Tour announced late last year, with more 400 matches broadcast in 2013 across the MCS TV Group network of channels.
ESPN retains U.S. rights and will carry its normal allotment of Thursday-Sunday Family Circle Cup coverage, including Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship match, with Cliff Drysdale and Pam Shriver in the booth.
But the extra international coverage means a lot of extra work for producer Al Connal, president of ConCom, and his crew.
“In the past, we’d do an average of six to eight matches through the whole week,” he said. “That was fairly straightforward as far as the logistics go. But under this new deal, they want to televise as many matches as they can, and the Family Circle Cup is one of the earlier tournaments in that process.
“We were able to swing a deal to allow them use the ESPN facilities, the TV truck and crew, to cover every single match on Stadium Court.
“That’s a lot longer day. Now we need to bring in a relief crew, and catering is up from one meal a day to two. Even though the cameras and facilities are in place, it’s a long day for the crew. At the end of the week, we’ll see how it goes. Outside of a major or other big event, this is certainly a first.”
Connal has a crew of about 18 on the production side, including producers, directors and announcers, and about 30 on the technical side (camera operators, audio technicians, etc.). He’ll also need a relief crew of about eight to handle the longer hours.
The online streaming of matches from the Althea Gibson Court will be produced by sports media group Perform and will be available on TennisTV.com, the official live streaming subscription site of the WTA and ATP tours.
Connal said ESPN3.com also has expressed interest in streaming matches.
At week’s end, Connal said he expects every Stadium Court match to get network quality coverage.
“Our first goal is to maintain a certain level of expectation,” he said. “We want to produce a broadcast that is ‘A’ level. And then at the end of the day, you hope for good tennis. That goes a long way once you are on the air.”