By Barry Janoff
January 27, 2017: Last May 2016, the Women’s Tennis Assn. signed a five-year deal with beIN Media Group that gave the communications company broadcast rights for all WTA tournaments — including 21 premier events and the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global — in more than 30 territories worldwide.
The live media rights and production alliance, currently running through 2026, begins in earnest this season, with beIN unveiling a season-long schedule that features 55 events in 32 countries.
Included are 17 premier tournaments worldwide, starring such top players as Serena Williams — who regained her world No. 1 spot following her Grand Slam win at the Australian Open over the weekend) — Venus Williams, Simona Halep, Garbiñe Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Agniezska Radwanska, Madison Keys and former No. 1 and now No. 2 ranked Angelique Kerber.
According to Antonio Briceño, deputy managing director for beIN Sports, "With the 2017 WTA season kicking off this month, we are proud to say that beIN Sports will broadcast more women's tennis than any other network."
Highlights include the 40th anniversary of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany (April 24-30), which is scheduled to mark the return of former world’s No. 1 player Maria Sharapova, coming off a 16-month suspension for use of a banned drug. (See the full beIN WTA schedule here.)
To support its premiere season of WTA coverage, beIN has launched a multi-media marketing effort, including TV, Internet, social media and on-site activation.
The main spot shows Williams, Kerber and other top-ranked players in action, with a voiceover, "These women will give it all in a quest that’s set to thrill. And only few will have what it takes to be on top of their game." Text reads: "You can’t stop these women."
Coverage of more than 40 WTA tournaments will be available live on beIN Sports Connect the network’s streaming service, on a dedicated WTA channel within the platform. Select tournaments will also air on beIN Sports and beIN Sports en Español.
The WTA includes more than 2,500 pro tennis players representing nearly 100 nations, with the 2017 WTA competitive season including 55 events in 32 countries.
beIN coverage begins with the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, live from Russia, where Roberta Vinci will look to defend her 2016 singles title. Also on the calendar: the Rogers Cup in Toronto, (Aug. 5-13), to air exclusively on beIN Sports.
Tennis sponsorship spending hit a record $801 million in 2016, up 4.2% from the $769 million spend in 2015 and more than $130 million over the $667 million spend in 2012, according to research firm IEG, Chicago.
In addition to beIN, WTA marketing partners include SAP, USANA, QIY and Dubai Duty Free.
Serena Williams was the highest paid female athlete in the world last year with $9 million in winnings and $20 million in endorsements. Sharapova is the second-highest paid female athlete in the world, with under $2 million in winnings in 2016 (due to her suspension) but $20 million in endorsements, according to Forbes.