Samsung, the world’s largest maker of connected TVs, is looking to flex more muscle in content distribution through a pact with Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Tennis Channel to carry a new free streaming channel in the U.S.

Dubbed T2, the Sinclair-owned channel will feature an advertising-supported 24/7 live stream of matches from major tournaments that might otherwise never be televised. The channel will be available only in the U.S. and exclusive to the Samsung TV Plus platform for the first 12 months. T2 will be accessible on TVs starting with Samsung’s 2017 models.

Samsung’s move to partner on the T2 exclusive channel launch underscores the consumer electronics giant’s ambitions to ramp up its content distribution biz. Samsung TV Plus is among the next-generation digital distributors embracing the rise of FAST (free ad-supported streaming television) channels like T2 as an alternative to traditional cable TV.

“As we see cord-cutting taking ahold of the entire industry, we believe Samsung becomes the next version television,” Takashi Nakano, the Los Angeles-based senior director of business development and content acquisition for Samsung TV Plus, told Variety. “The next phase for us is this FAST evolution. This is distinctly broadcast (airing live) but it’s also over-the-top and can have dynamic advertising. This is a good way to deliver users the content they want.”

T2 is carried by Samsung TV Plus on an ad-revenue share basis. To date, Samsung has not paid any license fees to content providers. Samsung declined to comment about the size of its global footprint. Industry sources pegged Samsung TV Plus’ reach as between 25 million and 30 million homes in the U.S., plus millions more in such top markets as India, the U.K. and Germany. The more homes Samsung TV Plus reaches, the more valuable the ad inventory on T2 (which is only available in the U.S.) and other FAST outlets.

The deal is a significant move for Sinclair to squeeze more profit out of Tennis Channel’s expenditures on tournament rights. At any given time during a major open, there are multiple overlapping events, meaning that the linear Tennis Channel can only feature a fraction of the action. Because of this, the sports cabler has long offered access to coverage on streaming — it debuted its first on-demand streaming app in 2007. That was relaunched in 2014 as Tennis Channel Plus.

For Tennis Channel chief Ken Solomon, T2 is a welcome addition to the portfolio. In his view, it will only be additive in terms of viewership.

“There are always multiple overlapping events going on” at any big tournament, Solomon told Variety. “We can strip out at any given moment one match of the 10, 20 or 30 going on simultaneously and put it on this platform. We can make this an always-live linear channel without disturbing anything we were already doing in linear and streaming.”

Industry insiders say Samsung leaders over the past few years have “awakened” to the opportunity to turn the company’s smart-TV ownership base into a content distribution platform. Samsung has the potential to become a digital MVPD in its own right thanks to its standing as the world’s largest manufacturer of connected TV sets. Samsung dominates the U.S. market, claiming 33% market share of smart TVs sold in the U.S. between 2017 and 2020, according to Statista.

T2 debuts this week with the BNP Parabis Open tournament, which runs March 10-20 in Indian Wells near Palm Springs, Calif. Coverage from the 11 days of competition will be presented on the linear Tennis Channel, T2 on Samsung TV Plus, as well as the subscription Tennis Channel app. The same is true for the Miami Open tennis tourney (March 21-April 2).

Samsung TV Plus executives said Tennis Channel was a natural fit, in part because Sinclair and the electronics heavyweight have collaborated over the years on broadcast technology R&D initiatives. Nakano praised the Tennis Channel team’s commitment to crafting T2 as a standalone entity, with its own on-air talent lineup and a different look and feel than the cable outlet.

“We were looking for a partner,” Nakano said. “We wanted to go exclusive and go big.”

Nakano would not elaborate much on Samsung TV Plus’ long-term programming vision. But he acknowledged that Samsung’s ambition regarding platforms and apps is growing. The company at present is focused on refining its apps for delivering local news and weather data to users by city and by region, he said.

Sports will also be “part of the vernacular,” Nakano said. “I think [T2] will be the start of something much bigger.”

Although a 24/7 channel featuring secondary matches would seem to appeal most to hard-core tennis fans, Solomon sees T2 as a prime promotional opportunity to pique the interest of casual viewers surfing through FAST channel bundles. Samsung TV Plus will give special promotional consideration to T2 during major tennis events such as Indian Wells and the French Open.

“There’s still a huge portion of the population that just isn’t in the world of subscription,” Solomon said. “The viewer that watches good old-fashioned broadcast TV isn’t getting the exposure to tennis on a regular basis to be brought into the game.”

There’s no question the top matches and highest-wattage stars will remain on Tennis Channel. Hatching T2 as a FAST channel makes sense at a time when traditional cablers and linear MVPDs are under extreme pressure from subscriber declines. Tennis Channel’s cable base at present stands at 61 million homes. That number is unlikely to grow much in the coming years, which means initiatives like T2 are crucial.

“We’re back to something that looks like broadcast. This is the bet that we’ve decided to make,” Solomon said. “The best part is that everything about [T2] bolsters the primary hub, which is Tennis Channel proper.”

(Pictured: Tennis star Sloane Stephens with Tennis Channel’s Steve Weissman and Prakash Amritraj at last year’s BNP Paribas Open)