Amazon: We couldn't wait to add WTA events to UK tennis offering
Amazon, the online retail giant, is to stream a minimum of 49 WTA tournaments in the UK in 2020, the first year of a four-year agreement with the organisers of the top women’s tour finalised today.
As reported by Sportcal last month, Amazon is replacing pay-television operator BT Sport as the UK home of WTA events in 2020, in a deal which complements its multi-year contracts with the men’s ATP Tour and the US Open, the final grand slam of the season.
It will be the first time that both professional tours will be available on the same platform in the UK.
Amazon announced on Wednesday that its Prime members will be able to watch up to 2,000 live and on-demand WTA matches per year, including those from the four cornerstone Premier Mandatory events – Indian Wells, Miami Open, Madrid Open and China Open – and the season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China.
International rights to WTA events are distributed by WTA Media, a joint venture between the WTA and DAZN Group.
The focus of Amazon’s coverage will be on top British players including Johanna Konta (pictured), the world number 18 and a semi-finalist at the recent French Open.
BT Sport has held WTA rights since 2013, and its present three-year deal, which expires in December, included a significant expansion of output to 52 live tournaments per year (compared to just 21 annually in the previous contract).
However, Amazon has been looking to position itself as a major player in tennis in the UK, with its five-year, £30-million deal for the US Open having taken effect in 2018, to be followed this January by its five-year, £50-million agreement for the ATP Tour, in both cases replacing Sky, the country’s leading pay-TV broadcaster.
Amazon also holds exclusive global rights to the Laver Cup, the international men’s team competition between Europe and the rest of the world, in 2019.
Alex Green, European managing director of sport at Amazon Prime Video, said today: “As soon as the opportunity to bid for the women’s tennis rights became available, we couldn’t wait to bring the tournaments to Prime Video, giving customers the chance to watch the best in both women’s and men’s tennis all in one place for the first time.
“We are excited to be the home of tennis and will offer viewers the most comprehensive coverage, at no extra cost to their Prime membership.”
WTA president Micky Lawler welcomed the switch to a new platform in the UK, saying: “We are thrilled that Amazon Prime Video will offer the best of women’s tennis and showcase our premium events and world-class players to millions of fans across the UK and Ireland. We have been so impressed by their vision for our sport and are confident the Prime Video team will be a great partner of the WTA.”
Amazon is offering UK viewers more than 220 days of tennis coverage this year, including 37 exclusive ATP Tour events.
Amazon Prime costs £7.99 ($10.18) per month or £79.99 per year in the UK.
In addition, UK customers who subscribe to Eurosport Player, the pan-European broadcaster’s OTT offering, via Prime Video Channels, can access the other grand slams, namely the French Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon (in the case of the latter, daily highlights and live coverage of the men's and women's finals only) for an additional £6.99 per month.
Nor is Amazon limiting its scope to tennis having landed exclusive live rights in the UK to 20 matches per season from English soccer’s top-tier Premier League for three years beginning in the 2019-20 season.
The company also offers live coverage of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games in more than 200 countries and territories in a two-year deal worth $130 million that runs until the end of next season.
Meanwhile, the WTA has announced that Iva Majoli and Michael Segal have been elected as player representatives on the board of directors until 2021.
Following voting by the players’ council, Majoli, the former French Open champion from Croatia, will represent players in the top 20, while Segal, a New York-based attorney will represent players ranked 21 to 100 and below.
The pair will attend board and players’ council meetings prior to taking up their formal roles in September.
• The All England Lawn Tennis Club, the organiser of the Wimbledon Championships, has this week launched a new advertising campaign to promote the 2019 event.
The ‘#JoinTheStory’ campaign was devised by advertising agency McCann London and includes a 60-second film, ‘The story continues’, featuring landmark moments from the tournament’s 142-year history tied in with historical events.
This year’s Championships take place from 1 to 14 July, and the AELTC will again be rolling out outdoor and ambient advertising near the site in south-west London to engage with fans and media.
• The International Tennis Federation has teamed up with Sandever, the sports equipment company, to assist with the growth of beach tennis worldwide.
Under the tie-up, Sandever, a new subsidiary of the Decathlon brand, will serve as the global development partner for beach tennis, and distribute 200 ‘Superkits’, comprising court kit, four paddles and six balls, to member nations.
ITF beach tennis manager Farivar Tanhai said the tie-up means the federation "will be able to reach more nations and explore more avenues to develop and grow this truly dynamic, exciting and entertaining sport."