In a deal estimated by insiders to be worth at least $50 million, the Sanex Women’s Tennis Assn. Tour and its TV partner Regency Enterprises have pacted with cabler Eurosport to provide European coverage of women’s pro tennis for the next five years.
As part of the deal, Eurosport will increase its women’s tennis coverage from 200 hours in 1999 to more than 300 hours in 2000, with future increases anticipated.
This means that for the first time ever, the cabler will cover more women’s than men’s tennis.
“This is more than just a deal, it’s a real breakthrough in entertainment,” said Arnon Milchan, the controlling stockholder of Regency Enterprises, whose sports-product outfit Puma presents the Eurosport package. Milchan is also the topper at Fox-based feature film outfit New Regency Prods.
Milchan added that this is the first time a traditional men’s sport, which dominated women’s tennis coverage two to one just last year, will now be overtaken by women.
“We are delighted to strengthen our fruitful relationship with the Sanex WTA Tour and Regency,” said Eurosport CEO Angelo Codignoni. “As the premiere sports broadcasting channel in Europe, Eurosport’s duty is to give the viewers what they want. Based on our European studies and research, women’s tennis attracts a wide-based fan audience that goes beyond national boundaries.”
Among the stops on the 2000 Tour are Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells in March, the July Acura Classic in San Diego and the Ladies Kremlin Cup in Moscow in October.
The new pact reflects the growing Euro viewer interest in the female version of the sport: In 1999, more than 60 million viewers tuned into WTA Tour matches broadcast on Eurosport. Based on research by People Meters in 1999, 12 out of 20 audience fave matches that year were WTA, and carried on Eurosport.
“This agreement will allow our audience across Europe to see more high-quality women’s matches than ever before,” said Bart McGuire, CEO of the Sanex WTA Tour.