WTA Tour signs biggest TV deal in women s tennis history

The Women s Tennis Association has signed a four-year extension on its television agreement with Eurosport and Regency Enterprises in hopes of making women s tennis more accessible to armchair fans.

The deal between the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, Eurosport, and Regency consists of a four-year extension to their existing international rights agreement, aimed at enhancing the entertainment value of the sport. The deal includes broadcasts of the Tour s ten Tier I and 15 Tier II tournaments, as well as the championships, and marks the largest television agreement in the history of women s tennis. Eurosport and Eurosport 2 will broadcast over 600 hours of women s tennis annually to the 108 million households the networks reach in 54 countries across Europe.

This deal is a major step in our television strategy for the sport, which includes innovations to the broadcast production, a more clearly defined product, and greater promotion through our partners, said Larry Scott, CEO of the WTA Tour. All of this will make watching women s tennis on television more entertaining and accessible than ever for the TV viewer.

The TV deal extension is part of the Tour s new television strategy, which centers on using innovations in its production and promotion to create a new level of excitement and intrigue for TV viewers. Several new technological innovations for tennis broadcasts were implemented this year, such as electronic line calling and wireless microphones placed on players during practice. With its television rights extension, the WTA Tour will continue to utilize these technologies, and will add to them by increasing the number and quality of on-court microphones, behind-the-scenes programming, and interviews with coaches and players.

“Things that are being discussed are possibly allowing coaching during matches, possibly putting microphones on players, Scott said.

However, the WTA is not interested in sacrificing the quality of the sport for a perceived entertainment value. We have to tread very carefully with the players, Scott explained. These are not initiatives to change the rules of tennis; this is about the packaging and marketing of the sport.

The WTA has also announced structural calendar changes, effective for the 2010 season, which will be implemented in order to make the tennis season easier to follow and understand. At the heart of these changes is a series of mandatory big-stage tournaments that will feature the top names in women s tennis competing on a consistent basis.

Tour partners have also agreed to greater promotion and television advertising in order to draw more fans to the sport.

Eurosport and Regency have broadcast women s tennis since 1999. Eurosport reported an audience of 80 million viewers for the 2005 edition of the WTA tour.