Peter Steckelman – Tennis Channel

Working the point and living the dream

The first time Peter Steckelman walked into a crowded broadcast booth only to find tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Jim Courier, he broke out in an instant sweat and was at a loss for words.

“I could only think ‘Oh my God, don’t screw this up … and don’t stutter and don’t look stupid!’” says Steckelman, a self-proclaimed tennis junkie who also happens to be the senior vice president of business and legal affairs at Tennis Channel. “I almost fell over.”

Talk about a dream job.

Though Steckelman had learned his way around a tennis court as a teenager and during law school, he says it was surreal helping to pilot what he calls the largest resurgence in tennis programming. In the past two years alone, Tennis Channel has grown to land in the living rooms of 61 million viewers, making it the fastest growing network in the U.S.

Peter Steckelman – Tennis Channel Vanguard Law Magazine

As Steckelman says, even non-tennis players know names like Roger Federer and Serena Williams and are tuning in. But nobody could have predicted what a phenomenon and transformation this is turning out to be for network TV. Of course, it makes perfect sense to Steckelman, an attorney who left a more traditional career in the entertainment industry to follow his passion for tennis.

Acquisitions, distribution and subscription

The Olympics. The Kentucky Derby. The Super Bowl. The World Series. Wimbledon. These premier athletic events hold center court in legal negotiations as networks seek to dominate coverage. There’s an art to each deal and lot of volleying back and forth with lawyers like Steckelman. Tennis Channel doesn’t pretend to commandeer all the top tennis events, but Steckelman says at least 95 percent of what is going on in the sport can be found on their network.

Tennis Channel finesses programming a little differently compared to other sports channels. Right now, they track and broadcast the entire annual tennis calendar. You’ll certainly see the latest of the four grand slam tournaments: Australian Open, Roland Garros (French Open), Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, but add to that 30 weeks of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) World Tour events.

Peter Steckelman – Tennis Channel Vanguard Law Magazine

Tune in more often and you’ll also see something extra: tournament coverage to see what’s happening in the earliest rounds in the Fed Cup, the thrill of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tour, not to mention Davis and Hopman Cup tour coverage.

Then there’s the additional coverage peppered with lifestyle programming, instructional videos, athlete profiles and travel segments. Tennis Channel also expanded its media presence and digital footprint through its acquisition of tennis.com and Tennis magazine. They are even moving forward in the streaming space by providing access across multiple digital platforms—all to serve those who love the game and want a quick and easy way to stay connected.

“If you want to watch tennis you start with us,” he says. “Our network’s mission is to be the home for tennis.”

Lessons learned

Practicing law and playing tennis may have more in common than people think.

“Tennis is a metaphor for life,” Steckelman says.

As he explains, every person has a goal (in tennis it would be to win); faces opposition on the road to that goal (opponents); experiences variables to the situation (conditions); and somehow has to employ problem-solving capabilities (reading opponents and developing strategy).

Because he is immersed in negotiations more often than practicing his backhand slice, Steckelman has honed certain legal skills he’s picked up from the game. For example, discussing the finer points of duking it out for rights on simulcasting.

“It’s a little different with law, with the art of compromise. You don’t have to “win,” but you have to close the deal. One person doesn’t necessarily take home the trophy, but in a best-case scenario you learn how to lift it together.”

Steckelman says he’s experienced plenty of job satisfaction in his tenure with Tennis Channel since 2011. At the top of the list is celebrating the sheer magnitude of growth and acquisitions that are bringing more programming to the network. He’s also successfully resolved trademark disputes with colleagues at Cozen O’Connor.

But some of the real fun, he says, you can’t put a price tag on. Like hitting with Martina while helping her film a segment for Tennis Channel and sitting out a rain delay with Tracy Austin, Martina and Mary Carillo. Or working on “talent deals” with larger-than-life TV stars-gone-commentator like Martina, Jim, Tracy and Lindsay Davenport. Just to be on a first name basis is cool.

“It can be a fine balancing act between being a negotiator versus a fan.”

Visibility, popularity and commitment

The national interest in tennis is showing no signs of slowing. While some viewers are drawn to the established tennis greats, others enjoy watching the stars in the making. To that end, Tennis Channel has forged a partnership with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and is building inroads in covering college tennis.

“Keep the visibility up and popularity will follow,” Steckelman says.

Peter Steckelman – Tennis Channel Vanguard Law Magazine

That said, nothing has captured Steckelman’s personal and professional interest quite like tennis; most of his non-work life—then and now—is focused on finding ways to play and promote the game.

Steckelman got into law largely because he didn’t want to get involved in the turbulent stock market of the late 1980s. But with a flair for forging deals, he found himself in the tennis-friendly environment of sunny California. Off the court he progressed up the legal ladder by working initially in the entertainment and gaming industries for companies like Disney, Mattel, Warner Brothers and, prior to TC, Konomi. But all roads eventually led to Tennis Channel where he scored his biggest win personally—game, set and match.

Published on: March 13, 2019



Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.


I was honored to be the subject of an article. I enjoy reading Vanguard articles and seeing how other attorneys got to their positions and see their jobs. It's also interesting to see how different law firms partner with the subjects of the articles.
– Henry Marquard, in-house counsel, Stanley Consultants Inc.
The piece highlighting my company, Bob Baker Enterprises, Inc., came out fabulous. Our company is in the new and used car sales and service industry. Everyone was great to work with and extremely professional. They produced a high-quality product and have provided expert assistance and guidance post-production of the article.
– Wade Poulson, General Counsel, Bob Baker Enterprises Inc.
It was a great honor to be featured in Vanguard Law. Working with every member of the team, from the initial interview with Erin Clark, through production with Victor Martins, writing the article with Taryn Plumb and creating the final content with Dave Gushee, was a true pleasure. Everyone was very professional, enthusiastic and supportive, and their creative approach and positive attitude clearly came through in the final product.
– Kevin C. Rakowski, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Compliance with Radian Group Inc.
As promised in advance, my feature in Vanguard has increased my visibility within the profession and prompted more than a few people I have not communicated with recently to reconnect. One of the Italian law firms I have used in the past is now in the process of interviewing me for an article on their website and tweeting out the feature story. Activity and the number of people connecting with me on LinkedIn has soared, which is great. The Vanguard writers and editorial staff were great to work with—highly professional and made the effort to make the experience both fun and rewarding (they were also respectful of the time pressures and demands all lawyers face). I was very pleased with the experience and the final outcome. Needless to say, I have been very pleased. All in all working with Vanguard has been a very positive experience which generated good publicity for both Shawcor and myself. My sincere thanks.
– Tim Hutzul, General Counsel, ShawCor Ltd.


Summer I 2024



  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.