Tennis Channel, WTA Ink Five-Year TV/OTT Rights Deal
Tennis Channel and the WTA have reached a five-year agreement that will make the network the U.S. television and digital media home of the WTA, beginning in January 2019. Running from the first week of January through late October’s annual tour championships, the partnership includes Premier and International tournaments as well as the WTA Finals — representing more than 2,000 matches each season.
The arrangement also gives Tennis Channel live, over-the-top (OTT) streaming rights to these competitions, in addition to authenticated digital streams. This will allow tennis fans to subscribe directly to the network’s Tennis Channel Plus streaming service for additional WTA matches that are not available on television, and let television subscribers take Tennis Channel with them on-the-go via mobile and out-of-home devices.
Additionally, it reunites the WTA tournament roster with the place it called home from the channel’s launch in 2003 through 2016, and enhances the network’s current women’s schedule of the four Grand Slams in addition to Indian Wells, Miami, Charleston, Cincinnati, Fed Cup, and other events. Week-after-week women’s matches will be cross-programmed across Tennis Channel’s multiple channel platforms, showcasing the best tennis players in the world in seamless concert and balance with the network’s yearlong ATP men’s and other coverage. Tennis Channel’s everyday lineup will again mirror an order-of-play sheet at any of the sport’s four Grand Slams, dynamically following all the tennis action across the globe versus just around the grounds.
The WTA and its media-rights partner DAZN Group (formerly Perform Group) worked with current worldwide rightsholder beIN Sport to facilitate January’s U.S.-rights handoff to Tennis Channel. As one of the WTA’s largest rightsholders, beIN Sport will continue to offer these events outside of the United States, as it maximizes the WTA brand on a global scale. Tennis Channel and beIN Sport will also coordinate appropriate cross-channel promotion as part of the agreement, and beIN Sport will have highlight and replay opportunities.
“Everyone involved — the WTA, beIN Sport, DAZN Group, Tennis Channel – came together for this partnership, with the result a big victory for American tennis fans,” says Ken Solomon, president, Tennis Channel. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to tell the year-round story of the athletes and other off-court personalities who make the WTA the preeminent brand in women’s sports. The women’s game is the biggest differentiator between tennis and every other sport, and one of the most powerful elements in helping grow mass viewership online. As we continue to aggressively grow our closely integrated television and streaming subscriber bases — along with online, social media and print — we’re looking forward to forging new ground with the WTA in creating new, expanded demand and broad, nationwide awareness and excitement for the sport we love and represent.”
In addition to matches on Tennis Channel’s OTT service Tennis Channel Plus, the network plans to fully integrate the WTA brand across all aspects of its content production and various platforms. This includes WTA events, players, and other tour content prominently featured in original series, specials, documentary films, short-form programming, social media series, daily news, and more. Beyond Tennis Channel’s television channel, app and OTT product, the network’s portfolio includes website www.tennis.com and Tennis magazine, the sport’s largest digital and print platforms, respectively, along with the youth-oriented Baseline digital service. Through its parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tennis Channel also provides the WTA with the opportunity to reach nearly 200 stations around the country.
“The WTA is pleased to partner with Tennis Channel in showcasing women’s tennis and its world-class athletes to our dedicated and passionate US fans,” states Micky Lawler, WTA President. “We look forward to growing the WTA with the Tennis Channel across US households through unified broadcast, streaming and media platforms. The WTA continues to work hand in hand with beIN Sport as they are a valued partner and fantastic stewards of the sport, serving as one of our largest rightsholders across the globe.”
WTA Premier events that will be in Tennis Channel’s on-air or digital lineup in 2019 include those in: Brisbane, Australia; Sydney, Australia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Doha, Qatar; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Indian Wells, Calif.; Miami, FL; Charleston, S.C.; Stuttgart, Germany; Madrid, Spain; Rome, Italy; Birmingham, England; Eastbourne, England; Montreal/Toronto; Cincinnati, Ohio; Tokyo, Japan; Wuhan, China; Beijing, China and Moscow, Russia. Through existing agreements, the network already covers events in Indian Wells, Miami, Charleston, and Cincinnati.
There are 30 WTA International tournaments under the agreement. From the start of the season in January to Wimbledon in July, these events are in: Auckland, New Zealand; Shenzhen, China; Hobart, Australia; Taipei, Taiwan; Budapest, Hungary; Acapulco, Mexico; Monterrey, Mexico; Bogota, Colombia; Lugano, Switzerland; Istanbul, Turkey; Rabat, Morocco; Prague, Czech Republic; Strasbourg, France; Nurnberg, Germany; Nottingham, England; ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands; and Mallorca, Spain.
The second half of the calendar includes International tournaments in: Bucharest, Romania; Gstaad, Switzerland; Moscow, Russia; Nanchang, China; Hiroshima, Japan; Quebec City, Canada; Guangzhou, China; Seoul, South Korea; Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Hong Kong; Linz, Austria; Tianjin, China; and Luxembourg, Luxembourg.
During the year-end WTA Finals, to be held in Shenzhen, China in 2019, the eight singles players and doubles teams that have earned the most points throughout the season will clash in a grand finale of round-robin and knockout matchups reminiscent of finals weekend at any major.
Tennis Channel expects to show more than 20 matches at the competition, from the first day of play through the finals.