A landmark media partnership with Sky Sports is just the first step in the global commercial growth of the WTA Tour, according to Marina Storti, CEO of WTA Ventures, the tennis governing body’s commercial arm.
Sharing exclusive insights with Insider Sport, Storti emphasised the significance of the Sky deal for the growth of women’s ’ tennis, but added that this is just one key part of a wider strategy to reach valuable markets and new audiences.
Insider Sport: How significant is this partnership for the growth of the WTA Tour and the wider sport of women’s tennis?
Marina Storti: The new partnership with Sky Sports is a really positive deal for the WTA. Along with another new deal we’ve just announced with Canal+ for the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it’s the first media rights agreement we’ve signed since WTA Ventures was set up earlier this year.
Our ambition with WTA Ventures is to grow the value of women’s tennis and help the WTA Tour to achieve its full commercial potential. We’re taking some encouraging early steps with these deals and there is much more to come.
IS: Compared to WTA’s previous media rights deals, what does this new arrangement bring to the court in terms of innovation and reach?
MS: What’s great about this deal is that Sky are making such a significant commitment to tennis. They are going to establish a new home for both the WTA Tour and the ATP Tour, and bring a significant footprint across some of Europe’s biggest markets.
There will be multiple ways for fans to access the WTA Tour, not just through Sky’s broadcast platforms, but through the NOW and WOW streaming services as well. I have no doubt that Sky will do a brilliant job with their production and will really get behind the sport in their promotion and coverage across their digital and social platforms as well.
IS: What shared synergies and goals did WTA find in common with Sky Sports?
MS: Our common goal is to keep growing the profile of the WTA Tour and building interest among fans. This is such an exciting time for women’s sport and it has been great to see Sky Sports’ increasing commitment. We’re looking forward to working together.
IS: Has WTA identified a need to extend its broadcasting reach in the European markets in recent years?
MS: We always want to keep growing our reach across markets, and we believe that the strength of the WTA Tour can also help our partners to do the same. Our new agreement with Canal+ is a great example of this.
Women’s tennis will be the second property, after Premier League football, to join the sports offering for Canal+ customers in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Canal+ sees the addition of the WTA Tour as a means of further increasing the attractiveness of the offer and broadening its appeal beyond football fans. It’s a great endorsement for the WTA Tour.
IS: What have been the defining pillars and objectives of WTA’s media and content strategy thus far?
MS: Our strategy is based on working with organisations who share our vision for the sport. We want to work with broadcasters and other partners who want to grow women’s tennis and give it the value, promotion and reach that it deserves.
IS: How will this media arrangement compliment WTA’s existing fan engagement and distribution strategies?
MS: The partnership with Sky is highly complementary. It will bring exposure and promotion for the WTA Tour, with significant reach into some of the most important and valuable European markets.
IS: In the digital age of media can TV broadcasting deals be relied on exclusively to boost tennis’ growth?
MS: Broadcasting deals are without doubt an important part of the overall mix, providing valuable reach and exposure. It’s important to note also that these new deals are not only for digital broadcast platforms, but also the streaming services of Sky and Canal+.
Alongside our partnerships, we’re also focused on developing our own digital capabilities as part of the WTA Ventures growth strategy. This is going to be an important part of how we increase fan engagement in the months and years to come. It’s not a case of doing either one thing or the other; working with partners and building our own digital estate are entirely complementary.
IS: How important has an effective media strategy been in supporting the growth of women’s tennis over the past decade?
MS: We’re just getting started with WTA Ventures and are excited about the opportunity ahead. With the scale of the global tennis fanbase and the level of untapped potential, there is lots for us to do.
I’m putting a strong team in place who will help us to drive forward the growth strategy. As well as working with great partners like Sky and Canal+, we aim to make a step-change in fan engagement, build the WTA brand and drive innovation. Growing the value of the sport will fund reinvestment back into the WTA Tour and increase the rewards for our athletes.