Potential Billion-Dollar Gambling Deal for Tennis Industry

  • Tennis may be in for a financial boost if deal goes ahead
  • Deal would give IMG streaming and data rights
  • This would be for the World Tour plus major ATP series
  • A number of streaming platforms are angry that they were not invited to bid
The governing body for men's tennis is under fire for not opening up the bidding process for a streaming rights deal
The governing body for men’s tennis is under fire for not opening up the bidding process for a streaming rights deal

Funding boost for tennis

Tennis is about to become the next big thing in the gambling arena if negotiations between streaming platform IMG Arena and the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) result in a deal. The ATP is the governing body for men’s tennis.

There is speculation in the news that the two are reportedly in negotiations for a deal valued at an estimated $1bn (£795m, €884m). According to SportsBusiness Media, any such deal would give IMG streaming and data rights to the ATP World Tour for 10 years.

If negotiations are successful, the deal would be the most valuable media-rights contract in tennis, and would bring a large boost in funding for the ATP.

Experts believe that the deal that is currently on the table would give IMG Arena the rights to the ATP World Masters 1000 series, the World Tour 500 series, and “some” of the 250 series. The report indicates that negotiations are in the final stages, so confirmation could be forthcoming shortly.

Complaints ahead

However, the ATP’s approach to doing a deal has not all been smooth sailing. It is thought that data providers and streaming platforms including Sportradar, Genius Sports, and Perform Content were not asked to provide ATP with bids for a potential streaming and data deal, according to SportBusiness Media.

This has led to at least one of IMG Arena’s rivals to confirm that it will be lodging a formal complaint with the ATP and that they may take the matter to competition authorities in due course. It is unclear which of IMG Arena’s rivals has made these claims at this stage.

It has also been revealed that. earlier this week, Perform made a written offer to the ATP to pay more for the rights than IMG.

There are additional worries that the deal would not be without potential problems, as the International Tennis Federation already has a deal in place with Sportradar for content. That deal includes coverage of, and data information for the Grand Slam tennis series.

The ITF is the sports global governing body, and organizes the grand slam competitions, Olympic tennis, team competitions such as the Davis Cup and wheelchair tennis.

The ATP organizes the ATP World Tour and is the governing body for men’s tennis. It is responsible for the widely referenced male players’ world rankings, which could lead to conflicts within the tennis community if the agency loses its current total impartiality.

Ongoing scandal

Further, because the ATP did not invite other providers to submit bids alongside IMG Arena, there are questions being raised over whether or not the deal would be seen as acceptable in terms of competition regulations.

There is also an ongoing scandal within the tennis community regarding match-fixing. Investigations so far have revealed that some 137 players across six countries could have been involved in the activity.

The inquiry has reached mainstream tennis matches, including one Wimbledon doubles match in 2007 that has been proven as being fixed. The issue has the potential to damage the generally squeaky-clean reputation the sport has managed to maintain to date.