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BT to serve up live women’s tennis

UK telco BT has signed up yet more content for the sports channels it will be launching to much fanfare later this year, with the latest addition being a four-year deal with the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to show up to 800 hours per year of live women’s tennis.

BT Sport will show live matches from 21 WTA tournaments across the globe, and includes the five elite WTA tournaments – Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing and Istanbul, with the latter city hosting the season-ending showpiece TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships.

During the 2013 season, the rights will be held jointly with previous holder Eurosport, but from 2014 will be exclusively owned by BT Sport. The telco adds that it has chosen to invest in women’s tennis as it seeks to widen the appeal of its new sports channels, which will launch this summer.

Simon Green, head of BT Sport, said: “This is our first women’s sport for the channels and we see a genuine opportunity to really develop the exposure for women’s sport with our new channels. We are focusing on several more women’s sports and we hope to be able to announce more rights soon.

“Women’s tennis is the highest profile women’s sport, attracting a global audience of 185 million viewers. It’s a good moment for the British women, with Laura [Robson] and Heather [Watson] starting to challenge for honours. We want to follow their story over the next few years, as well as showcasing the world’s best players in the tournaments that help determine their world rankings.”

Separately, BT is also reported to be “close to finalising” a multi-million-pound sponsorship deal with track and field governing body UK Athletics.

UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph reports today that the telco is hoping to take over from previous sponsors Aviva, whose five-year GB£ 50mn (US$ 80mn) deal expired at the end of last year. It is not yet known whether the deal is related to providing content for BT Sport.

Alex Green, Director of TV at BT, stated in an interview with IP&TV News yesterday that he is keeping an eye out for further opportunities to help fill the BT Sport channels, although these will not be on the scale of its FA Premier League or Premiership Rugby rights – more details here.

BT recently revealed that it has passed three-quarters of a million subscribers for its IPTV service ‘BT Vision’ after adding 21,000 customers in the third quarter of this year, and confirmed that it is accelerating its rollout of fibre broadband.

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