Innovation key as WTA Media embraces evolving viewing habits
Serena Williams missed almost all of the 2017 season, but WTA Media went from strength to strength throughout the year.
As audience viewing habits evolve around the world, professional sports face a continued challenge to meet the needs of their respective fanbases.
Amid the growth of OTT (over the top) media services, which enable consumers to bypass traditional broadcast providers, WTA Media is among the organisations seeking to stay ahead of the curve.
And its managing director, John Learing, knows embracing innovation is key.
"I think that maybe the next cycle of sports or of media rights might be the last traditional cycle we're ever in," Learing told Omnisport.
"Each one of our broadcasters is starting to understand the OTT world and the direct-to-consumer delivery and I think they're all trying to grab a bit of that. It used to be the bigger screen would always win, I'm just not sure that's the case. I think the most convenient screen is always going to win."
Asked about the challenges and opportunities facing WTA Media, Learing said: "It's trying to stay within the traditions and integrity of the sport while also meeting a fan's needs. I think sometimes those two are diametrically opposed to one another. And we have to figure out how to bridge those two.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to figure out how we can make this most traditional of all sports work in the 21st century."
Even without the star power of Serena Williams, who gave birth to her first child in September and consequently has not played since her Australian Open triumph in January, WTA Media was able to thrive in 2017.
The temporary absence of Williams left a void to be filled at the top of the women's game.
However, by committing to make 2,000 main draw singles matches available to fans as part of the agreement announced by Perform Group and the WTA in 2015, WTA Media was able to capitalise on a fascinating power struggle that has seen Simona Halep finish the calendar year in top spot and a resurgent Caroline Wozniacki claim the WTA Finals crown.
Triumph for @CaroWozniacki, @TimeaBabos and @AndreaHlavackov and a fond farewell to @mhingis!
What a week the #WTAFinals was! pic.twitter.com/gjM0MWwkpL
— WTA (@WTA) October 30, 2017
Learing added: "While we did miss Serena and [her] global impact - Serena is maybe the most dominant player ever on that tour - I think what we were able to do is, we were able to give our broadcasters a regional and local opportunity they never had before. Everybody has seen tennis as the valuable property we always hoped it would be."