SBJ/November 30 - December 6, 1998/No Topic Name

WTA looks to new deals after '98 revenue gap vs. men's tour

Women's tennis may be winning the battle of the airwaves and of popularity, but in one major area men's tennis is still handily taking the battle of the sexes: the financial bottom line.

Twenty-five years after Billie Jean King thrashed Bobby Riggs, the men's ATP Tour reaped $58.7 million in annual revenue, while the women's Corel WTA recorded a relatively paltry $14 million.

The disparity demonstrates that even after a year of record attendance and breakthrough TV ratings, women's tennis is still far from gaining financial parity with the men's tour. For example, the $38.3 million the ATP garnered from sponsorships and television nearly tripled all of the WTA's revenue — even as all but one of the women's finals in the six major tournaments of 1998 gained a higher TV rating than the men's.

"When we get a tour [title] sponsorship there will be a dramatic increase in revenues because the tour sponsorship revenues will be higher and so will the television revenues," Bart McGuire, the WTA chief executive, said at a news conference last week.

The WTA is hopeful that it will soon ink a title sponsorship package worth $8 million a year, doubling the one with Corel Corp. that expires at yearend (see related story, page 10). The WTA also signed a TV distribution deal in May with Regency Enterprises Inc. that reportedly guarantees the women's tour

$120 million over nine years, far more than the $5 million a year IMG made for the tour.

By next year, assuming the women's tour signs a title sponsor, revenue should be more than $20 million, McGuire told Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal.

If the tour is able to take in an extra $8 million a year from TV — as implied by the Regency figures — and $4 million more a year from a title sponsor, revenue should be at least $26 million.

The two nonprofit organizations use revenue to pay players, tournaments and operating expenses.

The disparity in prize money, paid by tournaments and the tours, also persisted in 1998. Men won $64.7 million in 1998 events, compared with $40 million won by women.

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