SBJ/August 31 - September 6, 1998/No Topic Name

Q & A: ARNON MILCHAN

 Arnon Milchan's Regency Enterprises, hired this year by the WTA Tour to market its international TV rights, hopes to glamorize and elevate tennis to a new level. Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal staff writer Daniel Kaplan talked with the entertainment mogul.

SBJ: Why did you agree to market the WTA?

Milchan: There was a strategic decision that sports and entertainment belong in the same field. We are spending between movies and television and music probably $500 million, and $300 million in advertising. The missing link is sports. ... We made a quick analysis. We took 400 to 500 people, and with the exception of Sampras, nobody knew the first names of Korda, Rafter, Krajicek, Kuerten, Bjorkman. Then we went Martina, Venus, Serena, Arantxa, Monica, Anna and everyone knew the family name. So we knew that women's tennis today is hotter than men's tennis.

SBJ: Why is women's tennis doing so much better than men's tennis?

Milchan: You tell me. What do you want to see: Venus Williams against Anna Kournikova or Petr Korda against Jonas Bjorkman?

SBJ: Is there a chance the tide will turn one day and roles will be reversed?

Milchan: Absolutely. I grew up admiring John McEnroe.

SBJ: Should women earn more in prize money?

Milchan: No. I think men should earn more in prize money because they stay a little longer on court. I don't think that is all that counts because even donkeys can stay longer on the court. You have to ask yourself who sells more tickets than who, who gets better ratings on TV.

SBJ: Is there a danger the game gets overshadowed by the glamour?

Milchan: Let me ask you something. Don't you think that at the end of the day they need to win a match to stay glamorous? You remember the Jensen brothers? They tried to be glamorous, but when they stopped winning it didn't mean anything. ... If Anna Kournikova doesn't win matches, she is just another pretty Russian girl.

SBJ: Are there examples of the impact you've already had?

Milchan: You remember Dan O'Brien, [Olympic] gold medalist in the decathlon? He flew to La Costa to watch women's tennis. We went to the French Open to watch Arantxa Sanchez, and Naomi Campbell came with us. [It's] no different than when Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas discover how fun it is to watch the Lakers. We should show the synergy between sports and entertainment.

SBJ: Do you see yourself as a factor in bringing some of the warring tennis factions together?

Milchan: Yes, absolutely, I would love to. The sooner men and women gang up, the sooner the sport will benefit. [We] should go to the networks, whether ESPN or CBS or Eurosport, as a combined program, instead of us saying you buy a few hundred hours from us and we don't care what the men do. ... The message is the enemy is not men or women. We should get a program and bring tennis up because it is too low to fight right now.

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