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June 9, 2022

Centralized media rights and profit sharing among approved ATP Tour reforms

The board of the ATP, the organizers of the top men’s tennis tour, has today (June 9) approved ‘phase one’ of its long-term strategic plan to significantly redesign the structure of the tour from next year.

By Tariq Saleh

The board of the ATP, the organizers of the top men’s tennis tour, has today (June 9) approved ‘phase one’ of its long-term strategic plan to significantly redesign the structure of the tour from next year.

The organization claims its strategic plan – dubbed ‘OneVision’ – will “take tennis to new heights from 2023” and “establish robust foundations for future growth of the sport”.

The plan was voted on by the seven-person ATP board, comprising chairman Andrea Gaudenzi, three tournament representatives, and three player representatives.

In development by the ATP since 2020, the plan introduces a set of reforms across the ATP Tour, “reducing fragmentation, aligning interests between players and tournaments, and repositioning tennis within the entertainment landscape”.

OneVision is made up of two independent phases and is focused on three core principles: driving unity, enhancing the fan experience, and leveraging scalable growth opportunities in media, data, content, and tech.

The approval of phase one by the ATP board follows more than two years of consultation with the player and tournament councils and ATP’s advisory board of industry experts from media and tech.

The initial phase of the strategic plan will come into play from January 2023 and introduce “major reforms and game-changing benefits”.

For the first time in the history of the ATP Tour, audited tournament financials will provide full transparency to players on the economics of tournaments, while a 50-50 profit-sharing formula will be introduced.

Gaudenzi confirmed the profi-sharing deal, as well as the plan as a whole, will run for 30 years until 2053.

Five ATP Masters 1000 events (the top-tier level of tournaments played) will be expanded to become 12-day tournaments, up from eight days, in line with the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and the Miami Open.

The expanded events will be those in Madrid, Rome, and Shanghai (from 2023), as well as Canada and Cincinnati (from 2025).

That would leave only the Monte Carlo and Paris Masters as week-long 1000-level events, but Gaudenzi said the hope was to expand them and make them combined men’s and women’s tournaments.

This expansion will see an increase in prize money for the Masters 1000 tournaments of more than 35% between 2022 and 2025. There will also be a bonus pool with a 50% share of all collective profit generated by the Masters events.

There will be prize money increases of 2.5% each year at the Masters 1000 events. Players would get a percentage of profits based on their performance in all of the tournaments, however, if the competitions lose money, the base prize money would remain the same.

Gaudenzi said the annual bonus pool also would increase substantially, with a target of $20 million (up from about $11 million this year), and would be paid out to 30 players instead of the current 12.

Additionally, media rights for the tournaments will be integrated into ATP Media, the organizing body’s broadcast arm which is owned jointly by the tour itself and by each of the Masters events. 

All tournaments on the tour will pool their rights and therefore secure their own separate share in ATP Media.

In addition, the tour has created Tennis Data Innovations, an independent entity that will centralize data rights.

The ATP claims this development “will open up major growth opportunities in media and data, two highly scalable revenue streams”.

The body added that by embracing the digital transformation, it will also shift the tour away from over-reliance on ticketing.

As part of OneVision, the strategic plan will additionally foster a new era of corporate governance and professional decision-making, through an expanded and restructured ATP board composition, alongside new checks and balances to protect against conflicts of interest. 

The ATP said the development of phase two of the plan is currently ongoing, “with the vision of creating a unified governance structure and operating model across the wider sport, exploiting key synergies and delivering greater support for lower levels of tennis through incremental growth”.

The second phase calls for further integration with the WTA (the ATP’s women’s equivalent), and the organizers of tennis’ four grand slam events, in the UK, France, Australia, and the US.

The ATP stated that recent collaboration “has yielded encouraging results including the announcement of a joint Netflix series, a collective response to the global pandemic, greater consistency, and alignment across rules and format, as well as coordinated fundraising initiatives”.

Last year, the ATP and WTA moved one step closer to a potential merger after combining their marketing operations.

The ATP and WTA officially transitioned to an integrated marketing operation in January 2021, building on what the respective organizations called an “unprecedented collaboration”.

Calls for the ATP and WTA to merge intensified in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic severely impacted the sport, both in terms of its calendar and finances.

Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP Chairman, said:Our sport has huge upside and stands on the cusp of a new era of growth. Fulfilling our potential requires us to be united, pursue new growth opportunities and focus on what matters most: the fans.

“OneVision gives us a game plan to do just that. Its launch represents a game-changing moment for the tour and a huge collective effort across our sport. I’m incredibly excited for what’s to come.”

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