WTA’s OTT streaming service finally going live next week
The WTA, the organiser of the top women’s tennis tour, is to launch a new over-the-top live streaming platform next week, having been unable to offer such a service to date this year.
WTA TV will be available from 31 July, featuring coverage of the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, Connecticut, USA, involving star player Maria Sharapova.
Live and on-demand coverage of WTA events will be accessible via laptops, mobile devices and tablets at a cost of $9.99 per month or $74.99 for an annual subscription.
The service is an element of the WTA's 10-year, $525-million media rights and production deal with Perform, the international sports content and media group, which came into effect at the start of 2017.
Last December, the WTA announced it would be creating its own OTT service this year following the end of an agreement with TennisTV, the live streaming service of the men's tennis tour's ATP Media, which had been offering WTA matches.
At the time, the WTA acknowledged that there would be an “unavoidable gap” and “inevitable delay” to the platform becoming available.
In January, the tour launched WTA Networks, a new digital media and marketing division, but the OTT service has taken longer to come to fruition.
At the time, Steve Simon, the chief executive of the WTA, said it would be worth the wait for fans.
He told the New York Times: “We’re embarking this year on an initiative that is a long time coming, and that is taking control and acting like any other professional league. We’re taking care of our broadcast - and I’m using that as a broad term - in a manner where we now have more control over it, rather than tagging along.
“I would rather have a little bit of a dark period and do it right than not have the ability to do what we need to do long term. Short-term pain for long-term gain.”
Around 2,000 matches per year from the WTA Premier and international tournaments are expected to be broadcast on the new service, which has been developed in collaboration with Perform.
Simon said on Thursday: "Fans want more content and 24/7 access. We are investing heavily to develop a strong digital ecosystem that caters for the new ways fans are consuming WTA-related content. Our goal is to provide fans the means to follow the tour and watch WTA matches on the best screen available to them, wherever they are."
WTA TV will be available globally, apart from in China, where the WTA has an exclusive long-term streaming agreement with iQiyi, the digital video platform owned by internet search engine Baidu.
Without an OTT streaming service, women's tennis fans in many countries have had to rely on coverage from pay-TV broadcaster BeIN Media Group.
BeIN’s deal with WTA Media, the joint venture set up by the WTA and Perform, runs from 2017 to 2021 and covers over 30 of the territories in which BeIN operates worldwide, including USA, Australia, France, Spain and the Middle East and North Africa.
US rights to WTA events were previously held by ESPN, the prominent cable sports broadcaster, and Tennis Channel, the specialist tennis channel, in deals that expired at the end of the 2016 season.
Some domestic media agreements with organisers of US events on the tour remain in place.
Image courtesy of WTA.