BT Sport broadens appeal as it signs live women’s tennis with WTA agreement
BT Sport has signed a deal with the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to show as much as 800 hours per year of live tennis featuring the best women players in the world, including the season-ending showpiece TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships.
BT Sport will show live matches from 21 WTA tournaments across the globe, as World No.1 Victoria Azarenka battles with challengers, including Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters, to retain her top WTA ranking.
BT has chosen to invest in women’s tennis as it seeks to widen the appeal of its new sports channels, which will launch this summer.
The announcement coincides with an upturn in fortunes for British women’s tennis, with two British players, Laura Robson and Heather Watson, both ranked in the WTA Top-50 for the first time since July 1987.
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 last October. The following month, Robson, who won Olympic silver at the London 2012 mixed doubles alongside Andy Murray, was voted the WTA Newcomer of the Year for 2012.
The BT Sport deal is for four years and includes the five elite WTA tournaments – Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing and Istanbul. During the 2013 season, the rights will be held jointly with previous holder Eurosport, but from 2014 will be exclusively owned by BT Sport.
Simon Green, head of BT Sport, said: “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. 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 and Heather 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 rankings.”
Stacey Allaster, WTA chairman 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.”
BT has chosen the iCITY, the former International Broadcast Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, as the home of its BT Sport channels. BT Sport will show 38 live games a season from the Barclays Premier League, including 18 of the top clashes, for three years from August 2013. The channels will also show 69 live rugby union games a season from the Aviva Premiership.