As it rushes to get ready for its big official launch in the summer, BT Sport has added top-level women’s tennis to its portfolio through a deal with the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
The four-year deal includes five elite WTA tournaments – Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing and Istanbul – and during the 2013 season, rights will be held jointly with previous holder Eurosport, but from 2014 will be exclusively owned by BT Sport.
Furthermore, under the terms of the contract, BT Sport will screen up to 800 hours per year of live tennis featuring the best women players in the world, offering live matches from 21 WTA tournaments across the globe, including the season-ending showpiece TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships.
When its sports channel begins, BT will be operating from iCITY, the former International Broadcast Centre at the London Olympic Park in Stratford with the big kicker, literally and metaphorically, its football offering, which will air 38 live games a season from the Barclays Premier League for three years from August 2013.
Shedding light on why it has chosen to invest in women’s tennis, BT said that it sees the sport as very much part of its ambition to widen the appeal of the new sports channel. “This is our first women’s sport for the channels and we see a genuine opportunity to really develop the exposure for women’s sport with our new channels,” explained Simon Green, head of BT Sport. “We are focusing on several more women’s sports and we hope to be able to announce more rights soon.”
“Women’s tennis is the highest profile women’s sport, attracting a global audience of 185 million viewers. It’s a good moment for the British women, with Laura Robson and Heather Watson starting to challenge for honours. We want to follow their story over the next few years, as well as showcasing the world’s best players in the tournaments that help determine their world ranking,” Green added. In October 2012, Watson became the first British woman since 1988 to win a WTA title when she triumphed in the HP Japan Women’s Open in Osaka. A month later, Olympic silver medallist Robson was voted WTA Newcomer of the Year for 2012.
Commenting on behalf of the WTA, Stacey Allaster, chairman (sic) and CEO, said: “The UK has long been a fantastic market for women’s tennis, with some of the very best and most knowledgeable fans in the world. Along with BT Sport, we look forward to bringing the best in women’s tennis, including Britain’s rising stars Laura Robson and Heather Watson, to the fans of Great Britain.”