For tennis fans, keeping track of WTA events hasn’t been easy. First, not all of the tournaments are televised, just 22 tournaments of the 54 events are aired, and when they are shown, unless they’re considered one of the major events on tour, only matches from the quarterfinals through the finals are available. Many early-round matches are ignored and can’t be seen either on TV or online. It’s frustrating for fans who want to watch tennis year-round.
However, that’s going to change in 2017. The WTA has renewed its deal with Perform Group Plc, a British media company that currently holds the association’s worldwide TV rights. Perform has signed a new 10-year contract to air all 54 WTA tournaments and all singles matches. This will total $525 million during that time and becomes the largest TV contract in women’s sports.
As the rightsholder, Perform sells the WTA’s rights all over the world and in the United States, ESPN and Tennis Channel show the tournaments either on TV or online. Tennis Channel airs many of the WTA Tournaments and they’re also streamed on ESPN3.
In addition to airing the matches, Perform will develop a company called WTA Media that will produce all 2,000 singles matches, air news programs and magazine shows. WTA Media will also produce content for smartphones and tablets.
This is a gamechanger for the WTA as sports media observers feel women’s sports has been undervalued. They point to female athletes gaining more popularity in Olympic sports as well as in tennis. And with this new contract, it will provide more exposure to some of the up-and-coming players as well as show the well-established members on the tour.
The new media rights contract will branch out to millennials who are using their mobile devices to watch sports. We’ll see if Perform develops an Over the Top package for Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and other devices as a way to reach those who don’t watch cable TV.