Monday, September 26, 2016 the paid subscription site, TennisTV announced that beginning in January 2017 it would no longer carry WTA events explaining that the WTA would be streaming its matches via a different platform. It also provided a Q&A
for users who may want to cancel or amend their subscriptions to the service. It should be noted that earlier in the year TennisTV announced that it would become available on streaming devices – AppleTV, Roku, etc – in January 2017.
There are many fans who prefer one tour over the other and many who prefer the WTA threatened to cancel existing subscriptions or not renew when it became time to do so. There were also a lot of questions about what the new WTA platform would be, what it would be called (WTATV?) and where it will be found.
I remember being upset when what was MastersTV, an ATP only platform, added the WTA to it’s stable and became TennisTV. I’ve gotten used to it though, enjoying the one stop shopping and making it unnecessary to watch dodgy streams where the person controlling the stream might decide he or she wanted to watch something else in the middle of a match causing the viewer to have to scramble and find another one. I didn’t like the geo blocking that became common but looking at the overall picture there were often other options available to watch whatever TennisTV wasn’t showing. Am I upset now? I’d have to say no. Surprised is more like it. I don’t understand why, just when TennisTV is finally expanding to streaming devices, an important move especially in the US market, the WTA would opt out of the service.
I live in the States so I can only talk about the status of women’s tennis in the country I reside in. To say it’s disrespected is an understatement. The top commentators (whether I think they’re the best is another matter) are always reluctant to call women’s matches unless they’ve played women’s tennis and still keep up with it. When someone like John or Patrick McEnroe are forced to call a women’s match the bulk of the commentary ends up being about the ATP tour. They show no shame in not having a clue about what is going on in the women’s tour. During a mixed event like the upcoming Beijing tournament the women get the worst of the scheduling both on court and on television. Even with TennisTV only the top ranked women’s matches would be available during a mixed event. I can understand the frustration of WTA fans about this. I’ve been annoyed about it myself at times. But to pull your already poorly marketed product off of the best streaming platform available, one with a world wide reach, is sheer lunacy in my opinion.
It’s even worse when you realize that millions of people in the States have cut the cord and no longer use television, network or cable, in the traditional sense. Honestly once you have a streaming device there is no need to use broadcast TV in any of it’s iterations. Every network, cable or broadcast, has an APP on these devices and the viewer can pick and choose what they want to watch. Ironically Tennis Channel beat TennisTV to the punch in making it’s content available for streaming. Tennis Channel is a purely US service though. TennisTV has world wide exposure.
I held off writing this column because I figured that the WTA would make its announcement if not yesterday when it should have, then no later then today so that fans would not be left hanging. There’s no doubt that a separate platform will cost money. When you add in production costs, the salaries of on air talent, etc the new service will not be cheap. Some are hoping for day to day or match per match pricing but in the end that is more expensive than buying an annual subscription.
Whatever the WTA decides to do they can’t put off an announcement much longer. To do so says to fans of women’s tennis that WTA officials were either blindsided (I doubt that since a decision like this isn’t taken overnight),that their decision to opt out was made in haste, or that they don’t think the value of their product is equal to that of ATP. If none of that then the only answer left is that they’re incompetent, that they decided to opt out without a definite plan for what the next step would be. I’d hate to think it’s the later.
Fans of women’s tennis deserve better.